ISLAMABAD: As the Supreme Court has launched judicial reforms, a senior puisne judge, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, bemoaned on Monday that the judiciary with a total strength of 4,000 judges could not clear its docket with a backlog of 1.9 million cases.

“There are 1.9 million pending cases in the entire country with only 4,000 judges,” Justice Khosa observed while heading a three-judge Supreme Court bench hearing an appeal against the Lahore High Court rejection of a murder case.

“Even if the entire judiciary consisting of all judges of the Supreme Court, all high courts and subordinate judiciary work day and night for 36 hours a day with 4,000 judges, it cannot clear the cases,” the judge said.

“And when we ask the government to increase the number of judges so that justice can be delivered promptly, they reply to us they are short of funds,” Justice Khosa observed.

Justice Dost Mohammad Khan, also a member of the same bench, suggested that only individuals with LLB or LLM degree with a five-year experience in prosecution should be appointed the Station House Officers (SHO) in police stations and that too in a senior grade like Grade 17.

Only one judge available for 62,000 people in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

The judge deplored that successive governments had failed to check the menace of intolerance and bigotry which had engulfed the entire country.

“Even the governments have failed to set up state of the art forensic laboratories in all provinces despite incidents of terrorism taking place in every part of the country,” Justice Khan regretted.

He said that only one such laboratory capable of performing forensic analysis existed in Punjab and it received evidence for forensic analysis from all parts of the country where acts of terrorism took place.

Justice Khan regretted that in numerous cases, the Supreme Court had issued orders for establishing such laboratories in all parts of the country, but in vain because such orders were never implemented.

The issue of judicial reforms had also been taken up during a meeting of the National Judicial (Policy Making) Committee (NJPMC) held on Saturday when Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar acknowledged that courts were overburdened.

The chief justice highlighted that only one judge was available for a population of 62,000 in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Similarly in the Lahore High Court, only one judge is available for 2.2 million people.

Also in Punjab, a single judge has a case load of more than 660 cases which shows that the judiciary is doing its best for dispensation of justice despite heavy case load and it is endeavouring to resolve the issues of delays within its existing limited resources.

The chief justice emphasised that judicial officers should use all their expertise with full dedication to address the problem of backlog and delay in disposal of cases in accordance with the law.

The chief justice also asked the chief justices of high courts to grasp reasons for the delay in the subordinate courts and advised that such reasons should be resolved by using all available resources.

He emphasised that disputes of the general public could also be resolved in a timely and cost efficient manner through recourse to Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) methodologies.

The chief justice also said that current laws were not compatible with today’s needs and required amendments, adding that the judiciary could strive to dispense justice by playing its role provided in the constitution.

Published in Dawn, January 16th, 2018

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