ISLAMABAD: The federal government on Wednesday enforced “The Cost of Litigation Act, 2017” in the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) to get rid of frivolous litigation and lodging of false cases.

The Ministry of Law and Justice has notified the said law for the federal capital which “contains the framework for reduction of delay in disposal of cases and deterrence against false and frivolous cases.”

The law will be applicable to “all courts including the Islamabad High Court”. A few months ago, there were over 13,000 outstanding cases in the IHC. However, as per recent statistics, the number of pending cases in IHC has risen to 16,414.

Likewise, the pending cases in the subordinate judiciary of the federal capital are 37,969 whereas about a couple of months back, there were over 35,000 cases with the district judiciary.

Petitions have been filed in the capital’s courts by habitual litigants on topics that attract media attention

In addition to the appeals against the decisions of the subordinate judiciary, there is large number of appeals filed in the IHC under Article 199 of the Constitution. The high court can entertain such petition to enforce fundamental rights of the citizen.

However while the majority of these petitions are related to service related matters, there are petitions filed by habitual litigants on topics that attract media attention.

For example, a lawyer, Makhdoom Niaz Inqlabi has filed over 10 petitions against politicians especially ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif. Mr Inqalabi also challenged the Elections Act, 2017 even before its promulgation.

His petitions sought contempt proceedings against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and also wanted to put the ex premier on the exit control list. He also challenged the registration of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz.

Another habitual petitioner Shahid Orakzai has filed 50 petitions since 2015. His petitions relate to the speaker National Assembly, President Mamnoon Hussain, Election Commission of Pakistan, and the late ex-governor Sindh Saeeduz Zaman Siddiqui. Orakzai even challenged the appointment of a judge of the Supreme Court.

SC recently banned Orakzai’s entry into the premises of the apex court. However, he continued filing petitions in the IHC.

Legal experts says that since there was no specific legislation to discourage frivolous petitions, habitual petitioners took it as an opportunity to invoke Article 199 of the Constitution even in matters not in the jurisdiction of the IHC.

The Cost of Litigation Act, 2017 makes it “mandatory for the parties to file details of actual cost incurred by them and the court shall award the costs to the successful party. Similarly, if a party seeks a adjournment, the court may grant adjournment subject to payment of minimum cost of Rs5,000 to the other party.”

“In case [of[ false and frivolous allegation, the court may award special costs over and above the aforementioned cost” the Act says.

The legislation is applicable to “all civil proceedings including suits, appeals, revisions, reviews and executions etc.”

In criminal proceedings, if any person or party seeks adjournment the court may grant such adjournment subject to the payment of Rs10,000 as costs to other party the law says, and that “if the complainant has levelled false or frivolous allegations against accused, upon acquittal of the accused, the court may direct the complainant to pay costs of Rs100,000 to the acquitted accused.”

Published in Dawn, March 15th, 2018

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