KP’s legal reforms

Published January 22, 2018

FOLLOWING commendable police reforms introduced last year, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has achieved another important milestone with a raft of amendments to the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, approved by the provincial cabinet last week. The reforms are intended to rationalise and streamline the litigation process, reduce unnecessary and wasteful delays and complete the trial process with minimal disruptions. Drawn up in consultation with the Peshawar High Court and the legal community, the reforms could go a long way towards improving the experience of the citizenry when it approaches the courts for justice. Indeed, one of the most consistent complaints about the Pakistani judicial system is that legal manoeuvring by parties intent on avoiding justice prevents the substance of the dispute from being adjudicated on for many years. Procedural delays may be a defendant’s best friend, but they can be the enemy of justice. In addition, the barriers to frivolous litigation have historically been low, miring the judicial process in excessive litigation that prevents genuine disputes from being heard in a timely manner. The reforms also aim to reduce the possibility of frivolous litigation and in doing so will help the judiciary better utilise its time.

The Code of Civil Procedure was devolved to the provinces under the 18th Amendment and it is welcome that the KP government is leading the way on necessary reforms. Studying the impact of the reforms once they are implemented will be important too because unintended effects and new problems can reveal themselves when archaic processes are overhauled and prepared for use in the 21st century. It is important to remember that reforms alone will not thoroughly overhaul a broken judicial system. The quantum of resources, especially the number of judges, will have to be increased manifold if an acceptable quality of justice is to be delivered in a timely manner to the public. Moreover, the Code of Civil Procedure is only one side of the judicial process; the other is the Code of Criminal Procedure, a federal subject. Imran Khan has publicly stated that the KP government has forwarded a number of recommendations to the federal government to reform the CrPC and urged reforms to be taken up quickly as mandated by the National Action Plan. Political pressure of the kind being exerted by Mr Khan on this particular matter ought to be applauded. The federation will only improve if its constituent units urge positive change.

Published in Dawn, January 22nd, 2018

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