ISLAMABAD: The number of cases pending with the Supreme Court has recorded a whopping increase of almost 100% during the last eight years.
The number of pending cases has reached 36,344 as compared to 18,359 in 2009, according to a summary statement of the Supreme Court issued on Saturday.
This rapid increase in the number of pending cases is the biggest challenge faced by the SC judges, who are already tolerating criticism in dealing with matters that are political in nature.
According to the summary statement, as many as 25,604 pending cases in the apex court came from the high courts, wherein 16,117 were civil petitions and 9,487 civil appeals.
Likewise, 294 constitutional petitions, which have been directly filed in the apex court, are pending so far, it states, adding that decisions on 177 human rights cases and 59 suo motu matters are still awaited.
Only one reference, which was filed by former president Asif Ali Zardari for revisiting of judgment in Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto murder case, is pending while decisions on 1,269 criminal appeals are still awaited, according to the statement.
Legal experts suggest that Alternative Dispute Resolution is the only option to discourage the trend of filing petitions, and the number of the Supreme Court judges may also be increased for the disposal of cases.
They recommend that if high courts judges could not be elevated due to certain reasons, then the court should directly appoint senior lawyers as judges of the apex court under the Constitution.
Senior lawyers are also proposing that the chief justice should devise a policy whereby special benches are constituted to decide cases similar in nature.
A senior official in the SC while talking to The Express Tribune admitted that there had been a rapid increase in the number of pending cases in the last couple of years due to several reasons.
Shedding light on the reasons, he said that the number of civil cases had increased because judges were busy probing the allegations of rigging in 2013 general election, adding that five senior most judges spent much time in hearing the Panamagate case this year.
“Earlier, we were fixing 20 to 25 cases in the daily cause list, but now the number has decreased to 15 to 20 cases,” said the official.
The official also revealed that the rate of cases of institution in the Supreme Court had increased to unprecedented levels as 1,200 new lawyers had been enrolled in the apex court, adding that the competition among lawyers had made it easy for litigants to engage their counsels on nominal fees.
According to the official, after the retirement of the former CJP Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry in 2013, summer vacations of SC judges have resumed, which creates hurdles in delivering swift justice. He believed that the SC Registrar Office should be legally empowered to entertain genuine cases as Indian registrars exercised the authority to decide minor cases.
Former additional attorney general of Pakistan Tariq Mehmood Khokhar sees several reasons for the rise in cases of institution: the country’s population has increased; as a nation, we are more inclined to litigation; most cases were filed against the executive which shows the government’s failure to redress the people’s grievances; there’s a trend of filing frivolous petitions; litigants approach superior courts against lower courts’ verdicts due to poor standard of justice system; disposal of cases in different high courts has increased due to appointment of a number of judges, so appeals are filed against them.
To discourage the trend, he recommends implementing a ‘cost and fine system’.