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ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan Asif Saeed Khosa on Saturday regretted that parliament did not accord priority to the justice system “since they (legislators) have bigger things to attend to”.

“It is for the state and the legislature to come up with laws which should be clear, unambiguous and easy to apply,” he said while speaking at a national conference on “Expeditious Justice Initiative: Roadmap to Time-Bound Criminal Trial Regime”. The conference held at the Federal Judicial Academy (FJA) was also addressed by the chief justices of different high courts.

The CJP told the conference that the Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan had submitted about 70 reports to the parliament and the law ministry for attending to different parts of laws, which needed amendments or substitution of different provisions. But unfortunately none of the reports had so far been taken up by the parliament, he deplored.

“I would request as we [the judiciary] have taken responsibility on our side, the parliament and the executive must also show interest in the justice system so that the entire system can be reformed and starts delivering,” the chief justice said.

Country’s top judge highlights ambiguous, outdated laws that need immediate review

He listed a number of laws which needed amendments like the anti-terrorism, saying the definition of the law could be interpreted in a way that even a minor offence could be termed terrorism.

Similarly there were many other laws which needed to be revisited like the Court Fee Act, the chief justice said. In every civil case this issue had to be tackled by determining what the court fee would be and for which the people had to approach revenue officials to get documents, he added. “Then the other party objects to it which leads to another round of litigation.”

He said a simple solution existed and that was to fix a general court fee and a single-line act could save millions of hours in a year.

Likewise, another law which needed attention was the Succession Act, the chief justice observed. He said at least 10 million people owned immovable properties in the country and innumerable people had to go to courts one day to get succession certificates while there were 3,000 judges and magistrates in the country. “Is this reasonable?” Chief Justice Khosa questioned, wondering why people had to go to courts for succession certificates when courts were meant for dispute resolution only.

“I will suggest a four-month period to the people to get their family-tree incorporated at Nadra and then whenever a succession certificate is needed, a click of a button will be enough by the authority to do the job,” he said.

Thus only one or two per cent cases might go to courts if there was a dispute, he said, adding the courts were to solve disputes and not to carry out clerical job.

“Similarly another law which needs review is the Illegal Dispossession Act 2005 — a law even I cannot understand,” the chief justice observed. Under the law, property disputes were being decided on the basis of reports of SHOs, thus police reports determined the rights of the people, he bemoaned.

The chief justice recalled he constituted a seven-member bench in the Supreme Court to understand the meaning of the law. But within half an hour of the proceedings, all the legal counsel admitted they could not understand the law and as a result the court had to ask the attorney general to convey to the government that there was no clarity in the law, he said.

Referring to the initiative of setting up model courts, he said a fundamental shift had been introduced in the criminal justice system since these model courts would decide dates of hearing with the consent of the lawyers after which the cases could not be adjourned at the trial court.

The country needed judges who could decide cases with passion,” Chief Justice Khosa observed. To substantiate, he cited the example of a chief justice of Canada who resigned because he had lost the drive to decide cases with passion which he used to have in the past.

Earlier Director General of the Model Courts Sohail Nasir told the audience that 116 model courts had decided 1,464 criminal cases in just 10 days, of which 287 cases were decided by 24 courts in Balochistan, 387 cases by 27 courts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 545 cases by 36 courts of Punjab, 191 cases by 27 courts in Sindh and 54 cases by two courts in Islamabad.

Published in Dawn, April 14th, 2019