Islamabad, September 11, 2017 (PPI-OT):Brother Judges;
Mr. Ashtar Ausaf Ali, Attorney General for Pakistan;
Mr. Muhammad Ahsan Bhoon, Vice Chairman, Pakistan Bar Council;
Mr. Rasheed A. Rizvi, President, Supreme Court Bar Association;
Members of the Bar;
Ladies and gentlemen:
It’s an honour for me to address this distinguished gathering. On my own behalf and on behalf of my brother Judges I take this opportunity to extend a warm welcome to all of you, and thank you for attending today’s event and making it a success. New beginnings are always occasions for hope and periods of reflection.
As I reflect on the last year I am quietly proud of my brother judges’ efforts. To be more than quietly proud does not behove a judiciary that is still beset by problems of a backlog and delays. I do not wish to be complacent. Our every combined effort is to strive ever harder to provide a better service. To this end many of you will already have noted that my brother judges have mostly forsaken the bulk of their vacation time to deal with cases and workload. Despite this, there has been a continuous rise in the backlog of cases in the Supreme Court.
On 31st August 2016, 30871 cases were pending in this Court. During the period from 1st September, 2016 to 31th August, 2017, at the Principal Seat Islamabad, 11772 new cases were instituted whereas 8996 cases were decided; at the Lahore Branch Registry 5611 new cases were instituted whereas 3193 cases were decided; at the Karachi Branch Registry 1292 new cases were instituted whereas 1097 cases were decided; at the Peshawar Branch Registry 595 new cases were instituted whereas 255 cases were decided; and at the Quetta Branch Registry 218 new cases were instituted whereas 126 cases were decided: thus against overall institution of 19488 fresh cases, 13667 cases were decided.
The decided cases include 1666 civil appeals, 4930 civil petitions, 1374 criminal appeals, 2750 criminal petitions, 225 jail petitions, 1377 miscellaneous applications, 716 review petitions and 204 criminal original petitions. This has left a net balance of 36692 cases as on 31st August, 2017 requiring determination by this Court.
Though the rate of disposal of cases is significant, yet the number of pending cases presents a daunting figure. It continues to haunt our minds and souls. In these circumstances we have taken a number of practical steps to address this backlog. Time constraints do not allow me to talk extensively about all of them but I would just like to outline a few measures in order to assure you that very real efforts are being made to address the issues.
Soon after I became Chief Justice of Pakistan, the President and the Executive Committee of the Supreme Court Bar Association called on me and requested that proposed cause lists should be issued in advance to enable the outstation lawyers and parties to prepare briefs and make their travel arrangements well in time. Accordingly, proposed cause lists for 3 to 4 weeks were issued upto the commencement of vacation. This practice will be continued in the coming days for the facility of the lawyers and the litigant public. The proposed cause list for the next two weeks has already been issued.
The process of filing of applications for early hearing of cases has been simplified. In this behalf, instructions were issued vide Circular dated 18th January, 2017 for fixation of fresh Criminal Petitions for bail before arrest on the date requested by the counsel to be indicated in the main petition; fresh criminal Petitions for bail after arrest filed upto Wednesday will be fixed/adjusted in the cause list for the next week; fresh Civil Petitions (particularly family/rent/admission/ service cases) accompanied by proof of urgency/execution proceedings will be fixed on the date requested by the counsel to be indicated in the main petition/stay application; stay applications accompanied by proof of urgency/execution proceedings in Civil Appeals will be fixed on the date requested by the counsel to be indicated in the stay application; and criminal/Jail Petitions against conviction/sentence upto 10 years will be fixed after a fortnight.
On account of continued constitution of Benches at the Principal Seat, Benches could not be constituted regularly at the Branch registries. However, to facilitate the litigant public, cases were invariably transferred to the Main Registry upon receipt of requests for the purpose. Out of these, urgent cases were fixed before the Court whereas in the non-urgent cases, orders for fixation on turn were passed. For the awareness of litigant public it has been notified that minor expenses in the form of Court fee are incurred on obtaining certified copies of documents and the parties are allowed to make copies of paper books at their own expense by affixing a Court fee of Rs.5/- on the application form.
An advanced Case Flow Management System has been developed. All cases are registered in the system and pendency and disposal of cases from filing to disposal stage are monitored through it. The entire case data is available not only at the Principal Seat but also at the Branch Registries. The regular and supplementary cause lists are uploaded on the Court’s website and Advocates as well as parties-in-person are informed about fixation of cases through SMS alerts.
On account of non-functioning of a Bench for any unavoidable reason, SMS alerts about delisting of the fixed cases are also instantly sent to all those Advocates who have provided enrolment numbers and mobile phone numbers in the office. SMS alerts about preparation of certified copies of judgments, orders and other documents are also sent to the applicants who have applied for the same. To avail these facilities, the parties-in-person are also required to provide their mobile phone numbers. Steps are being taken to further upgrade the system and pave the way for e-filing of cases. Initially, the Advocates and parties will be required to provide soft copies of their cases.
The National Judicial Automation Committee (NJAC), which is mandated to formulate systemic roadmap for the automation of the justice sector, has been re-constituted. Three meetings of NJAC were held wherein it was resolved to integrate the Federal Shariat Court and all High Courts with the Supreme Court through Handshake Software to avoid conflicting cause lists. It was also resolved that a centralized advocates data be maintained etc. Frequent adjournments on behalf of learned Advocates is also one of the main causes which hinders the expeditious disposal of the cases fixed before the Court and are otherwise ripe for the decision. We do accommodate learned Advocates in this respect but it shall be highly appreciated that if the adjournments are sought only under inevitable/unavoidable circumstances.
When I sat down to write this speech, Ladies and Gentlemen, there was one thing that kept coming to me again and again and I must share my feelings with you: it is of the utmost importance that the bench and the bar come together. There is strength in unity. We must realise that our first duty of care is to the litigants. To serve them we need to be strong. A house divided is weak and unable to give of its best. The bench and the bar must unite for a common purpose. The judicial system depends on the symbiotic relationship between bench and bar. A strong relationship built on mutual trust and respect will serve us well. All the stakeholders of the system of administration of justice are required to work together to solve this backlog as well as other problems.
As I said, this is a time for reflection. As we reflect on the past year, let us decide that the way forward is to work together to achieve our common purpose to build a stronger and more robust judicial system. We must work as one. With respect. With honour. With grace. We must face each day with hope and determination. I call upon you to join me in making our new judicial year a success.
How are we to measure this success? Too often we are wont to measure success in numbers. Cases dismissed, cases disposed of, cases decided. This has its importance and needless to say will remain our basic yardstick to measure progress. But I propose an additional measure of success for this judicial year. And this is to bring necessary reforms and appropriate changes in our legal system, especially the procedural laws and the Court management process should be made simpler and should be structured on the modern techniques and by the use of tools which have considerably helped the other judicature of the world in overcoming the problems causing delays in speedy dispensation of justice.
I genuinely feel that in this regard a joint and earnest effort is required from all the stakeholders and there should be extensive deliberations to find out the solutions to the problems by holding seminars, conferences and workshops involving the Judges, the Members of the Bar, the Jurists, the Law makers and above all the public at large who are the real affectees of the intricacies of the system. We serve the people of Pakistan and we serve the Constitution of Pakistan to the best of our understanding and ability. We do not write judgments to please, we do not write judgments to settle scores, we render judgments in the fine scales of justice.
Our Constitution provides system of governance to be run by the three organs of the State, namely, Executive, Legislature and Judiciary. They derive their power and authority from the Constitution. The Constitution is supreme and each State organ has to perform its duties and functions in accordance with the Constitutional scheme. The most vital aspect of a true democracy is the rule of law for which the independence of judiciary is a sine qua non. An independent judiciary administers justice according to the dictates of the Constitution and the law, and ensures protection of fundamental rights, with a view to achieving the ultimate goal of ensuring social, economic and political justice. Independence of judiciary means that the judges must be independent from all kinds of influences from any side, be it Executive or by any other person or authority in the echelons of power.
To ensure the independence of judiciary, the framers of our Constitution have highlighted in the Preamble to the Constitution that “the independence of the judiciary shall be fully secured”. Under the Constitution, the Judiciary is vested with the power to undertake judicial review whenever any authority or functionary of the State acts ultra vires the Constitution or the law. An official action or act, which violates any of the provisions of the Constitution or the law reflects arbitrariness, which results in misgovernance, non-governance and consequently in injustice. The prevalence of injustice results in denial and infringement of rights of the citizens, which in turn leads to chaos and anarchy in the society.
Thus, with a view to ushering in peace and progress and allowing physical and spiritual growth of the society, it is necessary to uphold the rule of law by all means. It is well-established that while interpreting different Articles of the Constitution, particularly those relating to the fundamental rights of the people, approach of the Courts should be dynamic rather than static; pragmatic and not pedantic; and elastic rather than rigid. The goal of justice will be achieved by upholding the supremacy of the Constitution and rule of law in the country. It is, therefore, imperative for us to safeguard and protect democracy as a system of our government for indeed it is an acknowledged basic feature of our Constitution.
The quality of justice delivery system largely depends upon the wisdom, legal acumen and integrity of all the concerned. Proper education and training of all of them is, therefore, critical for their capacity building with reference to these attributes in particular. During the last year, many training courses were conducted by the Judicial Academies at Federal and Provincial levels for the benefit of hundreds of participants including members of the district judiciary, law officers and Court staff. Strenuous efforts are being made to induct “the best of the best persons” at all levels.
The Court also initiated suo motu proceedings in matters of great public importance involving violation of fundamental rights, such as, non-payment of retirement benefits to pensioners by various departments; blocking and non-issuance of CNICs by NADRA; the bomb blast at Civil Hospital Quetta; non-functioning of Tribunals and Administrative Courts on account of vacancies; non-provision of clean drinking water; cutting of trees for extension of Pishin-Yaro Road, poor system of investigation and prosecution; etc. Besides, 29262 complaints were received in the Human Rights Cell, established in the Supreme Court under the public interest litigation jurisdiction for redressal of grievances. On this side, 29657 complaints were disposed of leaving behind 9701 complaints. This exercise, in some measure, brought relief to the aggrieved persons.
Ladies and gentlemen:
During this last year Hon’ble Mr. Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali, former Chief Justice of Pakistan, laid down the robes of his office as did Hon’ble Mr. Justice Amir Hani Muslim and we miss their wise counsel. Hon’ble Mr. Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel and Hon’ble Mr. Justice Sajjad Ali Shah joined us whose elevation is a valuable addition in the Court’s strength, which will help us in achieving the goal of dispensation of justice.
I thank my brother Judges for their cooperation and commitment to the cause of justice and the efforts made by them for the achievement of the goal of dispensation of justice. I also appreciate the hard work put in by the Court staff in providing assistance to the Court.
In the end, I thank all of you once again for your participation. May Allah Almighty bestow upon all of us strength and courage to administer justice freely, fairly and expeditiously in the coming days in accordance with the Constitution and the law. Ameen!
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