Judges term use of technological advancement only way to clear backlog

Published May 17, 2022
(L-R) Supreme Court Judge Justice Mansoor Ali Shah, IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah and German Ambassador Bernhard Schlagheck attend the ‘Technology for Justice Forum’ in Islamabad on Monday. — White Star
(L-R) Supreme Court Judge Justice Mansoor Ali Shah, IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah and German Ambassador Bernhard Schlagheck attend the ‘Technology for Justice Forum’ in Islamabad on Monday. — White Star

ISLAMABAD: Top jurists of the country on Monday said the only solution to clear backlog of 2.2 million cases and to provide swift and inexpensive justice to litigants was transformation to technological advancement.

Speakers at a conference organised by Justice Project Pakistan (JPP) on “Technology for justice forum” urged the government as well as the stakeholders to introduce drastic measures for overhauling the otherwise obsolete judicial system as it had virtually failed to effectively redress grievances.

Justice Mansoor Ali Shah of the Supreme Court and Chief Justice of Islamabad High Court (IHC) Athar Minallah spoke on the occasion.

Both the judges were of the opinion that until the transformation of the judicial system, the litigants would run from pillar to post to get justice.

Govt, stakeholders urged to introduce drastic measures to overhaul judicial system

Justice Shah recalled that in the recent past he wrote a dissenting note on the petition filed by Justice Qazi Faez Isa seeking live streaming of the hearing of his case against the presidential reference, and dissented the majority view that dismissed the petition.

Justice Shah was of the opinion that live streaming would give access to public at large to witness the judicial proceeding that ultimately restores confidence on the judicial system.

He said the traditional system had become obsolete owing to the fact that backlog in “Court House” had piled up over the years.

Justice Shah used the terminology “Court House” for the district judiciary, high courts and the Supreme Court.

“Delays in cases are the biggest challenge our criminal justice system faces; it devastates families and litigants,” he said.

He emphasised transforming the way we hear cases through technology to deal with over 2.2 million cases pending before the courts.

“We need to reduce delays, expedite court procedures and strengthen alternative dispute mechanisms.”

Commenting on the procedural delays caused by the manual system, Justice Shah added: “We have to reduce the shelf life of cases to one year by strengthening the alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, introducing online hearing arrangements and establishing proactive data-based monitoring systems. We need to improve our case management systems to prioritise human rights cases and cases related to women, children and prisoners.”

Justice Minallah concluded the conference by emphasising the need for a “movement towards reimagining the justice system according to the technological requirements of the 21st century.”

He said the country’s judiciary was still being governed by over a century-old criminal procedure code.

He said the IHC was the first to introduce e-court proceedings during Covid-19 and upload all interim orders on its website.

“This conference is important for us as it helps IHC in its struggle to bring tech in judicial system. IHC is the very first court in the country to conduct live streaming of its proceedings, and to upload the orders on its official website daily. The IHC introduced video calling for lawyers who are out of station.”

He said our court system was outdated and drafted by colonisers. We want drastic reforms and transformation, Justice Minallah observed.

He said district judiciary had never been the priority of the state.

The district courts must be of focus. Efforts of IHC to build a district court complex proved to be fruitful as work on the project is underway, he added.

Published in Dawn, May 17th, 2022

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