Judiciary to continue functioning to defend people’s rights, announces SC

Updated March 25, 2020

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No case to be dismissed for non-prosecution if lawyer cannot appear before apex court to plead the case. — SC website/File
No case to be dismissed for non-prosecution if lawyer cannot appear before apex court to plead the case. — SC website/File

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court said on Tuesday the judicial organ of the state would continue to perform its constitutional duties and functions for safeguarding the rights of the citizens.

The availability of the judiciary to the people at large would be ensured while at the same time following the precautionary measures put in place by the government and the Supreme Court, said an announcement issued by the apex court.

Earlier in the morning, President of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) Syed Qalbe Hassan appeared before Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Gulzar Ahmed, who was presiding over a bench at the Courtroom No.1, to request considering postponement of judicial work in the wake of the current novel coronavirus pandemic in the country.

At the outset of the court proceedings, the SCBA president appeared at the rostrum to urge the chief justice not to hold court since a majority of the litigants and their lawyers came from outside the city.

At this the chief justice asked the bar representative to widely inform the people that the Supreme Court would not dismiss any case for non-prosecution if the lawyer could not turn up before the court to plead the case.

The chief justice observed that the most significant and important institution like the judiciary could not be closed down and noted that no courts had been closed in Europe despite the worst ever situation due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

No case to be dismissed for non-prosecution if lawyer cannot appear before apex court to plead the case

The chief justice also affirmed that benches of the Supreme Court and high courts would be available on the court premises to hear matters brought before them and pass appropriate orders.

Later the Supreme Court, in an official announcement, explained that only three benches of the apex court functioned on Tuesday in view of the reduced roster. Different lawyers appeared before the benches, their cases were heard and orders issued.

This was done in the light of the policy spelt out in a meeting of the National Judicial (Policy Making) Committee on March 19.

The statement said all precautionary measures had been put in place, including screening at entry gates of lawyers and court staff and placement of hand sanitizers and wash basins at a number of places in the court building.

Moreover, non-essential staff, em­­ployees over 50 and female staff have been permitted to work from home.

However, the Supreme Court advised people that unless absolutely necessary they should refrain from coming to the courts since their lawyers could approach the apex court or other courts

Meanwhile, Vice Chairman of the Pakistan Bar Council Abid Saqi and the SCBA president appreciated the initiative taken by the CJP and chief justices of the high courts to reduce the fixation of cases only to the extent of those of urgent nature.

The two representatives of the top bars also requested the CJP and other chief justices for waiving the requirement of limitation, under the Limitation Act, for filing of cases in different courts in Pakistan. They requested the top judicial functionary to issue directives in this regard to all the courts at the different tiers.

Needless to add that in the lockdown-like situation throughout the country, the statement said, it was extremely difficult for the litigants to reach the lawyers and the courts to seek advice and to file their cases within the time limit prescribed under the law.

Therefore, such a situation necessitated waiver of requirement of limitation in filing of cases in the courts, it said.

Ban on export of vegetables, fruits sought

In a related development, Advocate Zulfiqar Ahmed Bhutta filed a petition before the Supreme Court seeking a directive for the federal government to halt the export of vegetable and fruits to different countries for three months.

Moreover, the petition says, government should be asked to devise measures for discouraging increase in the prices of essential commodities, especially vegetables and fruits.

Published in Dawn, March 25th, 2020