Model courts

Published April 26, 2020

MODEL courts, established for the purpose of swift disposal of cases, have awarded the death sentence — a punishment strongly opposed by this paper — to 874 people while handing down life imprisonment to 2,616 criminals during the period April 1, 2019, to March 30, 2020. These statistics are part of a one-year performance report issued by the director general of model courts of Pakistan. These forums for justice were established on the orders of the former chief justice of Pakistan Asif Saeed Khosa and were aimed at reducing the massive pendency of cases in the judicial system. Burdened by repeated adjournments, it is normal for cases in Pakistan to drag on for long periods of time, sometimes up to nearly 25 years. The model courts operate without adjournments and finish murder trials within a month. Other cases are also disposed of within a short period of time. Presently, there are 442 model courts in the country across all provinces. The report issued by the director general details the number of cases completed, number of testimonies heard and a slew of other statistics that point towards significant work having been done in a year’s time.

However, concerns exist. Some lawyers and judges associated with these courts have expressed uneasiness with conducting non-stop proceedings without any adjournments. While much of this unease may be due to the added pressure that comes with daily hearings, some of it may reflect larger concerns about compromising on the quality of justice if it is rushed for procedural reasons. This is an important issue that requires close scrutiny by the superior courts. Speedy justice is fine — especially in a system like hours that sags under the weight of delays — but equally if not more important is the risk of the miscarriage of justice. This becomes all the more critical if it translates into the guilty walking free and the innocent going to prison. According to a report by a UK-based NGO that was presented to the government of Pakistan last year, more than 78pc of the death sentences handed down by the lower courts of Pakistan were overturned by the Supreme Court. In and of itself this figure is a testament to the poor quality of justice being delivered in these courts. The Supreme Court overturns many sentences usually because the prosecution case was based on faulty evidence, or the witness testimonies were unreliable or the FIRs were erroneous procedurally and otherwise.

Given such a state of affairs, rushed proceedings can generate a sense of dread. The intent behind the model courts makes eminent sense but much more needs to be done before this intent can translate into deliverable outcomes that are credible, transparent and fulfil all requirements of justice. The Supreme Court may want to monitor these courts more closely in order to inject improvements both qualitatively and quantitatively.

Published in Dawn, April 26th, 2020

Opinion

Editorial

Police excesses
Updated 13 Aug, 2022

Police excesses

Crass thuggery and victimisation of ordinary citizens are unlikely to earn govt plaudits from any quarter.
Afghan cleric’s killing
13 Aug, 2022

Afghan cleric’s killing

THAT a suicide bomber belonging to the self-styled Islamic State group managed to target a senior Taliban cleric in...
No room for hockey
13 Aug, 2022

No room for hockey

THERE have been accusations and clarifications as the blame game rumbles on. Yet despite workers of the PTI ...
Militancy redux
Updated 12 Aug, 2022

Militancy redux

There is fear and confusion all around, and it is for the state to bring clarity to the situation.
Distorting history
12 Aug, 2022

Distorting history

WHEN history is co-opted by ideologically overzealous elements, expect the facts to die a quick death, and...
Dengue danger
12 Aug, 2022

Dengue danger

WITH rains continuing across most of the country, a dengue outbreak can quickly become a major headache for health...