With a disposal rate of less than two per cent last year, more than 135,000 cases continue to bite the dust in the province’s lower courts.
Half of these cases are pending trial in Karachi, where a disposal rate of less than one per cent was recorded in 2015.
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Consolidated figures, shared with The Express Tribune, suggest that the total case backlog in the province’s district courts was 135,960 at the beginning of 2015, which increased with the addition of 3,362 cases, and settled at 135,396 at the end of the year. The cases relate to criminal, civil and family disputes, and do not include those related to terrorism.
The total cases decided between January 1 and December 31 last year stood at 2,008 in the province, while 1,918 were sent to higher courts, the statistics revealed. The disposal rate, thus, remained at around two per cent. Disposal of a case includes deciding it by conviction, acquittal or compromise.
The figures showed that 105 cases were decided by convicting criminals, and 274 by acquitting the accused of all charges. In 31 cases, the parties reached a compromise, while two were settled through mediation.
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Karachi leads the way
Nearly half of the pending cases belong to Karachi, the largest city of the province with six administrative districts. However, the judiciary’s administrative division includes the South, East, West, Central and Malir districts.
The official statistics, available with The Express Tribune, show that the district judiciary in Karachi had a backlog of 71,554 cases at the beginning of 2015. To this, 1,380 cases were added. By the end of the year, the total pending cases dropped to 70,892 in total, with 16,208 in district South, 17,291 in district West, 19,468 in district East, 10,999 in district Central and 6,926 in district Malir. A total of 652 cases were disposed of while 1,390 were sent up.
The statistics revealed that 15,070 pending cases in the lower judiciary are from 2011 and before.
Following the judiciary’s restoration in 2009, court officials were given directives to compile data of cases pending trial for the last five years or more.
The figures, released in January this year, suggested that 15,070 cases - of criminal and civil nature - from across the province are awaiting decisions from courts. Only 13 such cases could be decided across the province during 2015.
The statistics showed that 4,085 old criminal and civil cases were pending trial in Karachi’s subordinate courts: 925 in district South, 1,586 in district West, 1,122 in district East, 191 in district Central and 259 in district Malir. Of the old cases, only three were decided in the last 12 months.
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Subordinate courts are the backbone of the judiciary, as the larger public approaches these courts for redressal of their issues. Observers mainly blame the provincial government for failing to do its part in ensuring the masses are delivered swift justice.
In Sindh, the district courts remain over-burdened with litigation for various reasons.
Former Sindh High Court chief justice Faisal Arab, addressing the full court reference upon his elevation to the Supreme Court in December 2015, blamed the scarcity of judges for delay in dispensation of justice.
Arab highlighted that during his tenure, which lasted for less than a year, 279 vacancies of judicial officers were filled through fresh appointments and promotions, compared to only 146 judicial officers that were appointed during the last 11 years.
On the other hand, lawyers say they are not the sole reason behind the delay in disposal of cases. “Everyone, from lawyers, judiciary and other relevant institutions is responsible for delay in timely disposal of cases,” said president of the Karachi Bar Association Mehmoodul Hasan.
According to him, the incompetency of some judicial officers was to be equally blamed for failure in provision of swift justice to the public. Hasan suggested a sit-down between all the stakeholders to find a permanent resolution.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 15th, 2016.
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