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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court commences the new judicial year with the resolve to become a symbol of unfettered justice to all citizens. At the same time it has also emphasised the need for initiating plans in a way that no branch of the government is unduly disadvantaged that may affect unfairly the administration of justice to the common man.

“The three branches of the government owe it to the citizens of Pakistan to work together to appreciate our goals and objectives as provided in our constitution, without stepping on each other’s toes and interfering in the functions of the other,” observed Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar at the opening ceremony of the new judicial year 2018-19 here at the Supreme Court.

“The common man must not suffer at the hands of the justice system — the very institution from which it seeks justice,” the CJP observed, also acknowledging that the country had spent enough time being complacent but it was time now to proactively search inwards and rectify the wrongs within the legal system.

At the beginning of the previous judicial year, a total of approximately 37,000 cases were pending adjudication in the apex court. The CJP recalled that of this 19,000 were decided. Though this year the rate of disposal was higher than the last five years, the number of pending cases nevertheless increased slightly.

It’s time to rectify wrongs within legal system, says CJP

The major contributing factor to this backlog of cases, the CJP explained, was frivolous litigation, unnecessary adjournments and customary delay tactics that hampered severely the process of clearing the backlog of cases.

“These menaces should be seen as nothing less than poison and removing it from the body of the bar and the bench is vital for the survival of the justice system,” the CJP emphasised.

In the past year, the Supreme Court had been the most stringent with a zero tolerance policy to any form of unnecessary delay, the CJP said, adding though the court would always encourage fair criticism, it would never tolerate attack on the judiciary.

Unfortunately, Pakistan had deviated from the Quaid’s vision as bad governance and injustices had plagued society, the chief justice regretted. But, he said, this tendency could be reversed and the vision of the Quaid achieved by ensuring that the rule of law, transparency and accountability prevailed in the country.

Concluding his speech, the CJP resolved to overcome all obstacles, saying that “let us aim high and achieve the maximum”.

Earlier, Attorney General Anwar Mansoor highlighted how the state of Pakistan was faced with the burden of incurring financial losses amounting to billions of dollars due to hastily conceived, populist judicial decisions of the past disregarding international laws and norms.

“Legal reforms need to be put in place to set time-limit, upend the backlog that has been created and deliver timely justice and also to ensure international treaties are honoured so that no embarrassing situation for the state is created in the international tribunals or arbitrations which Pakistan is facing where arbitral awards against the government have been given,” the AG regretted.

He emphasised that the pendency in different courts was a serious issue and, if not resolved, it might become impossible in time to come to truly resolve it and might become the cause of severe delays in disposal.

The AG also asked the CJP to strictly interpret Article 199 of the Constitution, saying that through different judgements the scope of Article 199 had been substantially enlarged, but it was being misused. This could be restricted through imposition of heavy costs where the courts came to the conclusion that a petition had been filed without valid reasons.

Pakistan Bar Council vice chairman Kamran Murtaza asked the Supreme Court to determine the scope of Article 184(3) of the Constitution through a full court hearing under which the top court initiates suo motu proceedings on matters the court considers against the law.

He also regretted that freedom of expression was being suppressed by issuing advisories with an objective to control the print, electronic and social media.

Supreme Court Bar Association president Syed Muhammd Kalim Ahmad Khurshid expressed the hope about transparency in the proceedings of the Supreme Judicial Council, saying that bar associations were not satisfied with the process of appointments of judges in the superior judiciary.

Published in Dawn, September 11th, 2018