Pendency of cases in SC hits highest level in country’s history

Up to 43,000 cases are pending with the apex court since Jan 15

Hasnaat Malik February 07, 2020
Up to 43,000 cases are pending with the apex court since Jan 15. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

ISLAMABAD: The cases pending with the Supreme Court have hit the highest level for the first time in the country’s history.

According to a fortnightly disposal report, 42,927 cases were pending in the apex court until January 15. Significantly, pending civil cases are increasing by the day as 23,793 petitions and 9,332 appeals are still undecided.

This rapid increase in the number of pending cases is the biggest challenge for Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed, who is giving a tough time to executive authorities on maladministration, illegal appointments and encroachment on state land for the last several weeks.

The incumbent CJ did not take any suo motu notice while only one constitution petition has been entertained in 2020. However, CJ Ahmed is fixing hearing of public interest matters which were initiated during the tenure of former chief justice Mian Saqib Nisar.

His predecessor, CJ Asif Saeed Khosa, was successful in bringing judicial reforms to improve the criminal justice system during the 11 months of his tenure. Due to his efforts, 25 years’ backlog of criminal appeals pending before the apex court has been almost wiped out. However, the apex court is yet to evolve any strategy to reduce the number of civil cases. Supreme Court Bar Association President Syed Qalb-e-Hassan expressed concern over the highest number of pending cases and said that many senior lawyers are complaining about the poor case management system as there is no fixation of urgent matters.

The judicial performance of the top court in the last seven years – from 2013 to 2020 – reveals that pendency of cases has doubled. In 2013, a total of 20,480 cases were pending but the figure has increased to 42,927 cases, showing a rise of more than 100%.

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In 2001, the number of cases pending before the Supreme Court was 13,070. This figure has multiplied several times since.

Seventeen thousand, three-hundred and seventy cases were pending in 2002. Over 14 years (2003 to 2016), the numbers of pending cases had been respectively 20,031, 27,614, 14,984, 13,724, 15,186, 17,754, 18,359, 20,234, 20,228, 20,314, 20,480, 22,979, 27,639 and 32,744.

On June 1, 2017 pendency of the cases in the court was 34,903. From June 1 to May 31, 2018, 22,942 new cases were filed, which raised the pendency figures to 57,845. However, during this period, 17,983 cases were decided, thereby reducing the overall pendency to 39,862.

On November 20, 2019, 41,105 cases were pending and now the number has crossed 43,000. It has also been witnessed that no Shariat bench has been constituted for the last two years. A senior lawyer reveals that a large number of convicts are behind bars and waiting for the decision on Shariat appeals/petitions.

A section of lawyers believes that the apex court cannot be blamed for rapid increase in cases.

Since October last year, the 10-judge full court is busy hearing Justice Qazi Faez Isa’s petition against the presidential reference. Whenever, larger benches hear cases, common litigant cases are affected, they add.

It is also learnt that CJP Gulzar Ahmed has summoned meeting of National Judicial Policy Making Committee on February 29 to consider issues related to the judiciary. Senior lawyers expect that the incumbent chief justice would follow all the measures taken by his predecessor CJP Khosa for the expeditious disposal of cases.


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