Islamabad, January 05, 2013 (PPI-OT):
Learned Chief Justice, Lahore High Court;
Learned Judges of the Lahore High Court
Ch. Zulfiqar Ali, President Lahore Bar Association,
Office Bearers of the Bar Associations;
Learned Members of the Bar;
Ladies and Gentlemen:
It is a matter of great satisfaction for me to have the opportunity to address the lawyers’ community from the city of Lahore. Lahore is a unique city. It reflects the cultural and historical strength of the whole country.
The lawyers’ community of Lahore also reflects the strength and diversity of its members. The lawyers from Lahore have earned a great name for they have sacrificed much in the line of duty, struggling against the tyrannical regimes and injustices.
You are the torch bearers of the past many generations of legal practitioners who held aloft the banner of law and constitutionalism in the country. No wonder that you played a leading role in the post march 2007 period when the latest incidence of constitutional deviation was met with a stiff resistance. That resistance inspired a whole generation of Pakistanis who espoused the notion of a truly democratic and law based polity where fundamental rights are ensured without discrimination.
The present democratic order is a direct consequence of your struggle for rule of law and supremacy of the Constitution in the country. Your contribution has not only been acknowledged by the world community at large but in future historian of contemporary history will miss your contribution in establishing a democratic and pluralistic Pakistan at his own cost and peril.
Today, while we look behind and take pride for we have achieved unprecedented success of not only restoring the dejure judiciary to its rightful place but we have also strongly established the principles of rule of law and supremacy of the Constitution in the country. However, these successes of the lawyers’ community have ignited the passion for further reform of justice system to quickly dispense justice and resolve disputes.
The people of Pakistan now expect better governance and equal opportunity for their individual and collective prosperity. They expect that the fundamental rights as enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan 1973 must be made available to them at all costs. They feel that those days are now history when the fundamental rights as promised in the Constitution remained always on the cold pages of the Constitution. Now these rights are to be brought before the people at their door steps not as a favour but as an obligation.
The Constitution furnishes a scheme for the protection of fundamental rights and fundamental freedom. The people of Pakistan have the constitutional right to be provided with safeguards as to illegal arrest and detention. They have the right to fair trial and the State is bound to ensure that bonded and forced labour is completely prohibited.
The State is also constitutionally obliged to ensure the citizens dignity is not violated and they are provided the freedoms of assembly, association, trade, speech and information. In addition to that, the citizens need to be provided with the freedom to profess their religion and to freely manage their religious institutions. They have the right to have due safeguard against its violation.
The citizens of Pakistan have the constitutional rights to education. The minorities and the women have the fundamental rights to be protected and to be provided with opportunities for full participation in national life.
The people of Pakistan are guaranteed to be provided with social justice where the State shall ensure that social evils are eradicated and just and human conditions of work are provided where the children and women are not employed in vocations unsuited to their age and gender. The Constitution of Pakistan has further ensured that the superior courts of the country are empowered to enforce these rights. Under the specific command of the Constitution the Supreme Court is fully empowered to take cognizance of violation of these fundamental rights.
The people also expect that the criminal justice system of the country should also be more responsive to their day to day needs. They have the legitimate expectancy to be given cheap and immediate but substantive justice with minimum of hassle. Keeping in view this new found feeling of the people to be governed better I had realized that we the judicial organ need to take some drastic measures for providing judicial relief to people at all levels. Thus right after our restoration, I reactivated the platform of the NJPMC (National Judicial Policy Making Committee) wherein extensive discussions were held both at the apex level i.e. all the Hon’ble Chief Justices of the High Courts and the Federal Shariat Court in their collective wisdom decided to formulate a coherent policy to address the problems in the judicial hierarchy of the country. Subsequently, consultations were held with the lawyers’ representative bodies and all other stakeholders of the criminal justice system of Pakistan. After these painstaking discussions, the National Judicial Policy was introduced in June 2009.
This was the first coherent effort by the judicial organ of the State to address the weaknesses marring the efficiency and output of the criminal justice system in the country. However, this Policy is not sacrosanct. It is open for review. In fact, in the last many years it has been revised a number of times in view of the suggestions provided by the relevant stakeholders including the lawyers.
I know that with the introduction of the National Judicial Policy the court system is under stress. Not only judicial officers have to put in extra hours to improve the disposal but the learned lawyers at every tier of the court system have to stretch themselves to cope with the challenge of clearing backlog and pendency accumulated since the last many decades.
The National Judicial Policy Making Committee has been responding to the complaints and suggestions received from the lawyers’ bodies to further improve the National Judicial Policy. In fact, the National Judicial Policy has been revised a number of times in the last four years only to accommodate the genuine demands of all the stakeholders especially the lawyers’ community. I expect that the lawyers’ community being the most vocal and organized professional body in the country would articulate the weaknesses in the National Judicial Policy on an institutional level. Resorting to strikes will further aggravate the problem of pendency and backlog of cases.
The better option is to submit your proposals through the lawyers’ representative bodies. Incidentally, we have been holding regular National Judicial Conferences which provide an excellent forum to register one’s views and even positive criticism for further improving the National Judicial Policy. The next such Conference is scheduled to be held in April 2013. I encourage all of you and the other lawyers’ bodies in the country to fully attend the Conference and also come up with workable and sustainable solutions for improving the criminal justice system in the country.
Here I would like to state that the judiciary on its own has taken all conceivable measures to improve our efficiency and output. As mentioned above, we have launched the National Judicial Policy. The Policy has paid off much dividend in terms of clearing of backlog and pendency. The Presiding Officers of district Courts must be appreciated for putting in extra hours for providing relief to the litigant community. The learned lawyers have also contributed by stretching themselves and coping up with the increased appearance in the Courts.
The Policy has gone down well with the end users of the judicial system at the district level. However, since the problems facing each institution at the district level are old and quite entrenched, it will require consistent effort on the part of both the Bench and the Bar to ameliorate the situation. In addition to that, we have taken strict measures to improve the SOPs in the court working. We have ensured that corruption and corrupt practices are minimized.
The High Courts in the country have dismissed many judicial officers and court staff found involved in such acts of corruption. However, there is a limit to what we as an institution can do within our own resources and capacity. Unfortunately, the Government has not been as forthcoming as it should have in strengthening the capacities of the Court system in the country. Here I would like to state that under Article 37 (D) of the Constitution of Pakistan 1973, the State is obliged to ensure inexpensive and expeditious justice to the people of Pakistan not as a favour but as a fundamental right. However, this has not being adhered to as is the essence of the Constitution. We have sent formal reference to the Government asking for increasing the number of judicial officers in the country but even after lapse of many months no positive response has been received.
Every other day some people tend to blame the judiciary for not being able to provide quick and inexpensive justice to them. However, if we compare the growth of population in our country and the expansion of judicial institution, it draws a sorry picture. In the last over sixty years, the country’s population has increased manifolds and litigation too has gone high, while the number of judicial officers working at the District and Tehsil level has not been increased accordingly.
There is also a dearth of other paraphernalia like court infrastructure, staff and equipment. Unfortunately, no coherent and holistic policy was ever envisaged to assess the actual requirement of judicial officers at the districts. Thus, we saw a Civil Judge in any Court in Punjab having to deal with a cause list of over 200 cases in any given day. Despite the perpetual shortage of Presiding Officers and other support staff the disposal rate of cases is not that bad as being projected by some quarters. At the end of the last month, 1.6 million cases are pending adjudication in the entire country with a population of around 190 million. However, I feel satisfaction in sharing with you the fact that in the month of November alone 26000 cases were disposed of while another 23,900 cases were instituted.
These figures are a good reflection of the working of the institution of judiciary in the country. Not only the disposal rate is satisfactory but fresh institution of large number of cases also shows the respect and credibility being given to your institution by the people of Pakistan. Here I expect from you that you should take all possible measures to keep this respect and credibility intact.
You must exhibit extreme professional ethics in picking up your briefs and diligently preparing your cases for the due assistance of the Bench. By avoiding frivolous litigation and by honestly assisting the Bench for reaching a judgment, you will be rendering the services to your client and also increasing your respect in the eyes of the community. This will be a win win situation for both you and the people as they will get the much needed relief and you will get the satisfaction to have served the cause of your client.
The post-March 2009 Pakistan is a new country where the people have been introduced to the concept of rule of law and supremacy of the Constitution. Now these twin principles are considered as the fountain from where flows the legitimacy of all actions done in the country. In this period, many landmark judgments have been rendered by the apex Court of the country which all have one common denominator i.e. “everybody is equal before the law”.
This message has assumed the status of a grund-norm in our contemporary jurisprudence. Whether it is the corruption in the government departments wherein billions of rupees were siphoned off and where by the court intervention, many more billions were saved and recovered, the Court had only applied the principle of rule of law and enforcement of Constitution to determine the culpability.
The same principles were applied irrespective of the fact that whether the accused was a small fry in the department or holder of the biggest office therein. Similarly, in the cases related to missing persons, ‘no ifs and buts’ were entertained and law and only law was invoked before giving any judgment. The time to compromise justice on the pretext of State necessity has long gone past. Now the only benchmark left is the Constitution of Pakistan 1973 and other laws which are to provide the foundation for administration of justice in the country.
It is time that other State institutions and departments should also imbibe the spirit of the time in their day to day matters and dispense their duties strictly in accordance with the rules and regulations. The Supreme Court of Pakistan has established the precedent of following rule of law and supremacy of the Constitution in all matters brought before the apex Court under various jurisdictions.
This has given unprecedented confidence to the Court to carry out its constitutional mandate in a free and fair manner. Thus, if other institutions and departments also play their due role as prescribed under the rules and law, there is no reason why we as a nation should not prosper. Strict enforcement of rule of law and following the constitutional obligations will empower the people who will feel as a part of the system.
This feeling will keep their hopes alive and make them follow the legal and constitutional ways to realize their dreams. However, any denial of people’s rights due to discrimination in the application of laws has the potential to radicalize the people and also make them vulnerable to the calls to these unscrupulous elements who may misguide them by invoking the name of religion or other extremist ideologies.
You being the most educated and law knowing segment of the society have the added responsibility of telling the people what is the right and constitutional way to achieve socio-economic prosperity in the country.
It was you who initiated the rule of law movement in the country almost 5 years ago. Now it is again your responsibility to ensure that the movement initiated by you is successful in achieving the objects of rule of law and supremacy of the Constitution. I do not see any reason why this cannot happen given your unstinted support to the concept of rule of law in the country. I wish you all the best.
Thank you very much
For more information, contact:
Shahid Hussain Kamboyo
Public Relations Officer
Supreme Court of Pakistan
Tel: +9251 920 4184
Fax: +9251 920 1001