Pakistan’s top judge told the Senate on Tuesday that the rampant lawlessness in the country posed a grave threat to the state.
In the first address to the upper house of parliament by any chief justice of Pakistan, Anwar Zaheer Jamali said the prevailing culture of impunity and lawlessness evidenced by corruption and crime had serious consequences for the state’s stability, and the public’s confidence in and the legitimacy of state institutions and, ultimately, social cohesion. “We are failing to deliver as per the expectations of the public.”
Justice Jamali, who got an overwhelming reception at the Parliament House on his arrival, chose to address the lawmakers in Urdu.
“We have established a justice system in all tiers,” he said, and stressed the need for improvement. The top judge said the massive increase in population and fewer educational facilities were the two most important issues of the country, adding that these factors also affected the judicial system. He suggested serious legislative work in the sphere of fundamental rights.
Justifying institutional interference, Justice Jamali said it was ineffective implementation of laws that forced the Supreme Court to intervene in the domain of the executive. “It is more appropriate for the government to lead this effort, but due to the often grave consequences of poor implementation and weak administration, the court has been compelled to delve into organisational matters.”
He said a constitution that suffers from weak state enforcement ultimately loses its legitimacy and threatens disintegration of society. “We, therefore, need to develop a national narrative for strengthening the rule of law.”
The top judge told the public representatives that the country had an abundance of laws, “perhaps we are even over-legislated in some areas”, but the crisis of implementation must be addressed as a matter of priority. “There is little point in having fine laws when the organisations responsible for implementation are essentially dysfunctional.”
He lamented that since legislative drafting is yet to be developed into a specialised skill, the incorporation of constitutional policy and objectives in state policy and legislation remain weak and problematic.
For making this possible, the Senate, while amending the rules, turned the house into the committee of the whole house for deliberating on different aspects to ensure inexpensive justice. However, Justice Jamali rejected all four findings of the committee forwarded by Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani.
In response to the first suggestion – there is a need to end revision procedure in criminal and civil litigation – the CJP said the review system was as old as 1808 but it was an integral part of the justice system and still relevant. “In the event the jurisdiction is misused, then the person at the helm is responsible.”
On the second suggestion, he said: “If we omit the intra-court appeal remedy in high court, then there would be no other forum to rectify the mistakes, and the matter would directly land in the top court and overburden it. It would also force the litigants to come to Islamabad.”
Regarding cognisable and non-cognisable offences, Jamali said parliament could ascertain the consequences of changing the terms to ‘arrestable’ and ‘non-arrestable’. “The SC would accept whatever the parliament decides.”
On the fourth point – the court must give a timeframe regarding conclusion of a trial on the day of framing the charges – the top judge said it depends on the executive to ensure appearance of witnesses, production of evidences and prosecution. “There is nothing wrong in the procedure itself.” Rabbani termed Jamali’s address and suggestions ‘thought-provoking’.
Pointing out flaws in the criminal justice system, the CJP said that despite the establishment of the ombudsman’s office in 1983, there are no standards for good administration or a national strategy to curb maladministration. Despite the creation of information commissions, there are no standards for transparency, thereby enabling corruption and crimes to go unchecked behind closed doors, he added.
He said judicial oversight and review were insufficient and might be inappropriate to deal with these matters effectively. “It is primarily for the parliament to examine, invest and innovate to improve the quality and reach of justice services.”
Meanwhile, Leader of the Senate Raja Zafarul Haq requested Jamali to look into the matter of judges’ appointment procedure, which a parliamentary panel had termed ‘one-sided’.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 4th, 2015.