Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa on Saturday regretted that parliament seems to be dragging its feet in acting swiftly to address imbalances and deficiencies in the judiciary, explaining that the provision of justice is a shared responsibility.
"It is unfortunate that parliament has not been paying attention to legislative matters. Up till now, we have already sent 70 reports to parliament and the law ministry. Provision of justice is not just the judiciary's job — the legislature has to do its part," he said while addressing a gathering in Islamabad.
Furnishing an example, the chief justice said: "The Anti-terrorism Act (ATA) can be applied to anything under the sun. From theft to rape, the law can be applied to any crime in the country. The Supreme Court created a seven-judge bench to review the ATA and a judgement has been reserved on the matter, so I will not say more — but clarifying the ATA should have been the parliament's job."
"It is the state's responsibility to provide cheap and swift justice to the people. Various experiments have been done in the past to lessen the span of time taken to rule on cases. Sometimes laws were amended and at other times it was suggested that we 'do more'.
"We can't tell judges to do more, the amount of work our judges are doing here, no one is doing anywhere in the world. A total of 3,000 judges are appointed in the country. Last year 34m cases were wrapped up by our courts — what more can the judges do?"
The chief justice at one point remarked that since the day he became a judge, his mission has been to wrap cases up swiftly. "People at the bar council used to call me and my friends the 'junoon group' [the impassioned]," he recalled.
"The US Supreme Court wraps 80 to 90 cases every year. The Supreme Court in the United Kingdom wraps up 100 cases each year. The Supreme Court of Pakistan wrapped up 26,000 cases last year," he pointed out, stressing the fact that the judiciary in Pakistan is overburdened.
Providing a solution to the matter, the chief justice said: "The way [to fix this] is to fix the causes of delay in judgements. The parliament should look over laws to see how judicial review can be made better than before.
"Why are inheritance claims made on the basis of police reports?" he asked. "If Nadra were to compile family trees, people would be able to get claim certificates on the push of a button, eliminating millions of man-hours of court work. The role of police in civil cases is inexplicable. This was brought to the government's notice though the attorney general. The parliament needs to take a look at the laws created by it."
"I salute the judges that provide swift justice to the people," the chief justice said in conclusion to his address.
Justice Khosa has forcefully advocated for fixing the weaknesses in Pakistan's judiciary. In March, Justice Khosa had said that if judges are appointed to 25 per cent of the vacant positions in the system, the backlog of pending cases in court could be wrapped up within a year or two.
"There are only 3,000 judges to cater to a population of 221 to 222 million people," Justice Khosa had regretted, noting that they could not possibly clear out the backlog of 1.9m cases jamming the system.