Govt unveils plan to set up 120 new accountability courts

Published September 4, 2020
The plan will be presented to Prime Minister Imran Khan by the Law and Justice Division for consideration in the coming days. — AP/File
The plan will be presented to Prime Minister Imran Khan by the Law and Justice Division for consideration in the coming days. — AP/File

ISLAMABAD: Acceding to the Supreme Court’s directive, the federal government has finally come out with a comprehensive plan to establish 120 accountability courts across the country.

The decision has been taken by Law Minister Barrister Farogh Naseem. The plan includes the overall human resource requirements and financial implications for establishing the additional accountability courts across the country.

The plan will be presented to Prime Minister Imran Khan by the Law and Justice Division for consideration in the coming days, said a statement issued by the law ministry on Thursday.

Currently, 24 accountability courts are functioning across the country, in Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Peshawar, Lahore, Multan, Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur and Quetta.

Scheme includes human resource requirements and financial implications for establishing courts

The statement said PM Khan had been vigorously focusing on expediting the process of an across-the-board accountability for which these additional accountability courts would be established.

The Supreme Court, while hearing a case on July 8, had ordered the law secretary to immediately seek instructions for setting up at least 120 accountability courts to clear the huge backlog.

The apex court issued the directives after expressing dismay over pending of 1,226 references since the year 2000 as well as vacant vacancies in five accountability courts out of a total of 25.

The directives were issued by Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed while hearing a suo motu case regarding delay in trials before accountability courts in the light of Section 16 of the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO), 1999, which asks for deciding corruption matters within a period of 30 days.

The CJP had also regretted that neither investigating officers working with NAB were well-trained to properly probe corruption allegations nor prosecutors were interested in pursuing cases before the accountability courts.

The court had noted that the application filed by NAB showed that the cases even of the years 2000 to 2006 and onward were pending before the accountability courts and apparently there seemed to be no valid justification why these cases were being allowed to remain pending.

The court ordered the government to immediately increase the strength of accountability courts to ensure that all pending accountability cases came to a logical conclusion at a fast pace within a period of three months.

In response, the government had earlier informed the apex court that a staggering Rs2.86 billion that too per annum would be needed to establish 120 new accountability courts in the country.

The law ministry had then taken the stand that a huge amount of Rs23.87 million annually would be needed even to set up one accountability court.

The federal government had explained that in total 975 corruption references were pending before 24 accountability courts in the country the highest being at the accountability court of Multan with 80 cases, followed by 56 in the Karachi accountability court.

History of evolution

Also on Thursday, CJP Gulzar Ahmed, while speaking to the participants of the National Security and War Course 2021 at the Supreme Court building, gave an orientation on the judicial system of Pakistan and said that like other countries, Pakistan also had its own judicial system.

According to the CJP, the judicial system in Pakistan, as it is now, has its own history of evolution and is rooted in the times of Hindu and Muslim rules of India and the British colonial period.

After the end of British rule in 1947 and creation of the independent state of Pakistan, the judicial system has further evolved through indigenous experiences and learning. Indeed, this process of refinement is ongoing and will keep continuing, he added.

The judicial system of Pakistan is fully codified by laws, and its practices are governed by laws and rules, which are also duly codified.

The CJP said Pakistan was a federal republic and Article 1 of the Constitution provided for the same.

Article 175 of the Constitution deals with the judicature and provides that there shall be a Supreme Court of Pakistan and a High Court for each province and the Islamabad Capital Territory, and such other Courts that may be established by law.

Furthermore, by a Presidential Order No.1 of 1980, Chapter 3A was added to the Constitution by which the Federal Shariat Court was constituted.

Published in Dawn, September 4th, 2020

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