Judicial woes: High courts face acute shortage of judges

Backlog of cases increases day by day while judicial community differs over who is responsible for appointing judges.

Azam Khan December 02, 2012


The country’s higher judiciary faces an acute shortage of judges, increasing an already massive backlog of cases. While the law and justice commission refrained from sharing the exact number of cases pending in the five high courts, it is believed the backlog numbers well into hundreds of thousands with more cases piling up each day.

Among the country’s five high courts, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) fares the worst with a 60% shortfall. Of the seven sanctioned posts for judges, only three are currently occupied. Despite being established only a few years back, IHC already has around 10,000 cases pending.

Lahore High Court (LHC) faces a 40% shortfall. Of the 60 posts for judges available, all but 36 lay vacant. Sindh High Court’s (SHC) situation is not so dissimilar, with only 25 judges available and the remaining 15 seats vacant.

Peshawar High Court (PHC) currently faces a 35% shortfall, with 13 sitting judges against 20 sanctioned seats. Only eight judges are available against 11 sanctioned seats in the Balohistan High Court (BHC).

Who is responsible?

The legal community is divided over who is responsible for the shortage of judges.

Prominent jurist Hamid Khan argued that article 175A of the Constitution, inserted via the 18th Amendment, had made the appointment of judges cumbersome leading to the current shortfall. He cited the recent row between the presidency and judiciary over the appointment of IHC judges as an example.

Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) General Secretary Javed Iqbal Raja, however, held the judiciary responsible for the shortfall. He maintained the 18th Amendment made the appointment of judges solely the judiciary’s domain. Raja, along with fellow newly-elected SCBA officials, is gearing up to press for the re-induction of Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO)-era judges.


Justice (retd) Tariq Mehmood sided with Raja, saying the judicial commission is responsible for appointing judges.

“Filling these vacant posts in the high courts will also reduce the load on the apex court,” he added. In a recent full court meeting, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry revealed that a comprehensive plan for filling the vacant posts has been forwarded to the government.

“Efforts to fill vacancies in courts and enhance the capacity of judiciary have been made. The Prime Minister has been approached with a request to issue directions for the allocation of funds to recruit additional judicial officers,” the Chief Justice was quoted as saying in a press release issued after the meeting. Meanwhile, Dr Farogh Naseem said the issue of lingering cases requires more than judicial activism and long-term strategy in this regard is needed.

“There is no immediate solution… this is a question of deciding people’s fate and courts cannot rush such a sensitive issue,” he said. Dr Naseem added that the number of courts must also be increased to cope with the rising crime rate.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 3rd, 2012.


Khalq e Khuda | 9 years ago | Reply

The onus of this shortage is on judiciary as PBC, law minister and other members of judicial commission have repeatedly requested in writing to CJ for appointment of more judges. But of course he can't find the right yes men!

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