Islamabad, December 22, 2012 (PPI-OT):
Vice Chairman Sindh Bar Council
President Sindh High Court Bar Association
President Karachi Bar Association, Mr. Mahmood ul Hassan
Members of the Bar
Ladies and Gentlemen!
It gives me immense pleasure to have the opportunity to address you today in Karachi. The lawyers’ fraternity of Sindh and particularly the city of Karachi has a glorious past in terms of setting excellent tradition of promoting the culture of rule of law and supremacy of the Constitution in the country.
The lawyers from the city of the Quaid have always been in the vanguard in taking up the issues of importance to the people at large. This city has the singular honour of being the city of the Quaid who in his own right was the leading constitutional lawyer of the Indo-Pak subcontinent.
The tradition of professional work ethics and commitment to one’s cause set by Mr. Jinnah have been jealously guarded by the lawyers’ community of the province of Sindh. Your role in the historic lawyers’ movement needs no further elaboration. Suffice to say that the sweat and the blood given by your colleagues during those halcyon days have been etched in golden words in the constitutional history of the country.
Today, while we look behind and take a sigh of relief 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 in the country. The people of Pakistan now expect better governance and equal opportunity for their individual and collective prosperity.
They 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. As they say “Charity begins at home”, therefore I had very early after restoration in March 2009 realized the fact that in view of the increased expectation of the public, the judiciary as an institution has to evolve well coordinated mechanism to address the issues plaguing the criminal justice system of the country.
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 Honourable 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.
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 strike will further aggravate the problem of tendency 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. 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 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 many folds while the number of judicial officers working at the District and Tehsil level has not been increased accordingly.
The number of judicial officers working in the districts and tehsils contrast negatively to their counter parts working in the police and district administration there was a time when one Superintendent of Police and one Deputy Commissioner used to manage the affairs of the district of the size of Lahore and Karachi. But now there is an army of DIGs, SSPs, SPs catering to the law and order situation in the wake of ever increasing population bulge. Same is the case with the office of the Deputy Commissioner.
In contrast to them, the number of district Judges has not registered the similar increase. 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 more institution of cases.
The post-March 2009 Pakistan is a new country where the people have tasted the flavor 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 has one common denominator i.e. “everybody is equal before the law”.
This message has assumed the status of a ground-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. Same principles were applied in cases related to law and order situation in Karachi being the economic and corporate face of Pakistan to the rest of the world.
It is the added responsibility of everybody to ensure law and order is intact in this city and governance is improved. Now it is up to the other institutions to ensure these judgments are implemented in letter and spirit to reap the benefit inherent in the strictures passed by the apex Court. Who can deny the fact that holding of free and fair elections on completely updated and error-free electoral rolls is the only way forwarded for the whole nation. The Court has also observed that holding of local body’s election in the country including the cantonment areas is a constitutional obligation which should be complied with immediately.
To sum up in the end, I would like to say that we are witnessing the most defining moments of our history. The attraction and power of rule of law and supremacy of Constitution is mobilizing the people in one direction while the protagonists of old structures are trying to slow down this march of history. As they say old habits die hard, but in view of the awareness being spread by the media and the civil society empowering the people and the watchful judiciary ensuring no constitutional deviations are countenanced, our future is bright. This march of history to the Promised Land is beckoning us to carry on and your contribution in starting this march and continuing it till its fruition will be remembered by our generations to come.
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