IN the intricate web of the country’s judicial system, the dispensation of expeditious justice is a pressing need even as the larger system grapples with an array of diverse and formidable challenges. The staggering number of pending cases in the higher judiciary down to the lower tiers paints a dismal picture, leaving a backlog that is clearly astounding in its dimensions.
The colossal backlog of cases reflects a reality that has multiple factors behind it.
One prominent reason is the inade- quate number of judges. Courts across the board tend to have vacancies that remain unaddressed, inevitably contributing to the burgeoning pile of pending cases.
Efforts have been made to address this issue through the establishment of the National Judicial Policy Making Committee (NJPMC), the Access to Justice Development Fund (AJDF), and the Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan (LJCP). The aim was to streamline the process. However, a more profound overhaul is clearly necessary to rectify systemic delays.
While the need to curb frivolous litigation and promote alternative dispute resolution has been rightly emphasised, such measures may not address the core issue of service-related cases, which disproportionately affect the vulnerable.
Ironically, a glaring disparity is seen in the disposition of cases involving the elite and influential, which is rather swift compared to the arduous journey faced by the masses. The prevailing procedures appear to favour the privileged, while the underprivileged navigate the infamous red tape and cumbersome processes that only add to their sufferings. Verdicts are almost always followed by appeals or review petitions that further compound the process of justice delivery.
To address the crisis, substantial and concrete reforms underpinned by a consensus-driven approach are needed. The importance of clearing judicial backlogs must be embraced by the entire superior judiciary, rather than shouldered solely by the apex court. A comprehensive programme should be devised to curtail backlogs over a targeted number of years, bolstered by a commitment to quality, efficiency and accessibility in the process of justice dispensation.
The urgency is undeniable because the repercussions of delay are far-reaching, potentially affecting not only the litigants, but the very fabric of society.
Beyond clearing the backlog, we need to galvanise a long-term consensus-driven approach to ensure that this remains a persistent priority for years to come. Only by collectively addre-ssing this issue can the system deliver justice in its true essence. Justice delayed is justice denied. Remember?
Published in Dawn, October 1st, 2023