ISLAMABAD: As the new judicial year begins today (Monday), the Supreme Court will be bracing itself for an unprecedented increase in the institution of cases and high pendency rate.
An opening ceremony will be held in the courtroom No1 of the apex court to mark the beginning of the judicial year 2016-17.
Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Anwar Zaheer Jamali, Attorney-General Ashtar Ausaf Ali, Pakistan Bar Council’s (PBC) vice-chairman Farogh Nasim and Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) President Ali Zafar will address the audience.
The ceremony is held every year to determine ways to tackle challenges faced by the Supreme Court.
According to data provided by the SC’s PR office last month, 14,562 new cases were instituted during the period between January 1 and August 24 this year. CJP had pointed out last year that 26,000 cases were pending.
As many as 27,916 cases were pending as of January 1 this year, while the number rose to 30,404 during the same period. Despite the appointment of two ad-hoc judges, the ratio of pending cases could not be lowered.
Reasons for increase in filing of cases
Former additional attorney-general Tariq Mahmood Khokhar pointed out that “most cases are filed against the executive,” which is an indictment of the government and its failure to redress public grievances.
There is a trend of filing frivolous petitions, according to him, citing also how litigants approach superior courts against lower court rulings. To discourage this trend, he recommended implementing a ‘cost and fine system’.
Solution for reducing pending cases
Attorney-General Ashtar Ausaf recommends improving the image of the district judiciary, enabling people to have more faith in lower courts. “Leave should only be granted to file a case in the Supreme Court where there is an important question of interpretation of the law,” he maintained.
SCBA President Ali Zafar called for adopting alternative dispute resolution methods such as out-of-court settlements.
He also suggested increasing the numbers of SC judges, adding that if high court judges could not be elevated for any reason; senior lawyers should be considered for direct appointment.
After the retirement of former CJ Iftikhar Chaudhry, the superior judiciary adopted a policy of judicial restraint.
This year, the CJP took up only 15 suo motu cases and entertained around two dozen constitutional petitions, which were filed under Article 184 (3) of the Constitution.
Most of the constitutional petitions were returned by the SC registrar’s office. At a time when the superior judiciary is avoiding interference in political matters, legal experts say that the matter of probing the Panama Papers controversy will also be a challenge.
The procedure for appointing judges is also under severe criticism by the bar associations as well as parliamentarians: this will be another challenge for the apex court. The Parliamentary Committee on Judges Appointments has become ineffective. The committee has not held any meeting for the past year to consider recommendations of the Judicial Commission in this regard.
Meanwhile, lawyers are calling for amending the Judicial Commission Rules, 2010 for ensuring transparency.
Lastly, the outcome of the reactivation of the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) is still doubtful. On September 13 last year, CJP resolved to start self-accountability by reactivating the SJC, which has so far identified cases of alleged misconduct, but trials have not yet started. No superior court judge has been ousted by the council since the 1970s.
Enforcement of fundamental rights and compliance on its previous judgments will also be challenges for the apex court.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 19th, 2016.
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