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ISLAMABAD: The law ministry has proposed cutting the duration of civil litigation by amending the law in such a way that the final decision in a civil suit may be passed and implemented in less than five years rather than in more than 25 years, as is the prevailing practice.

Minister for Law and Justice Dr Farogh Naseem told the press that in a recent meeting with Prime Minister Imran Khan, he discussed a proposal to abolish the second round of litigation for the execution of civil suits and a bill to amend the law may be tabled in parliament soon.

According to him, in the existing civil procedure a litigant has to wait decades for a civil suit to be finalised, and it takes a similar amount of time for the decision to be implemented.

Under the existing law, a litigant files a civil suit before a civil judge whose decision is challengeable before the district and sessions judge.

Proposed amendments would abolish second round of litigation in civil suits and treat final SC order in first round as decree

The case then reaches the high court, where a single and then division bench hears the appeal. The matter ultimately reaches the Supreme Court, where the decision becomes final after the SC decides the appeal and its review petition.

After attaining finality, the successful litigant must undergo another round of litigation. The litigant goes to the clerk for the issuance of a decree, which is then produced before a civil judge. The process continues until it is again decided by the SC.

Mr Naseem safely estimated that the timeframe for the average civil suit is 20 to 25 years, but a number of cases have been pending in court for more than four decades.

He expressed the hope that if the law is amended, the litigant may see the final decision in less than five years.

While explaining the proposed amendments, he said the ministry had suggested that the second round of litigation be abolished completely and the SC’s final order in the first round be treated as the final decree.

In the first round, he added, there would be two civil judges – one for stay matters and another for trial proceedings – who will conduct simultaneous proceedings in order to prevent delays because of stay matters.

If the case is decided, the stay would lapse automatically, he said.

Instead of appealing the civil judge’s order before the district and sessions judge, the appellate forum would be the high court, where a single bench will hear the appeal and instead of an intra-court appeal, the plaintiff would then approach the SC, where the case will be finalised.

However, he said, the new law would not be applicable to the two million pending civil suits, and will be prospective.

Cases instituted after the law is promulgated may be dealt with through this ‘fast track’ method, he said, while the proceedings in the backlog would continue using the old procedure.

The minister said the backlog may be cleared under the new law after two or three years.

He also expressed the hope that parliament would approve the amendments since this is not a political matter but one related to the difficulties facing citizens.

He added that legislation was being made for the issuance of succession certificate through the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) as it is not possible for the overburdened sessions court to issue succession certificates on time.

Published in Dawn, October 5th, 2018