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Constitution allows judiciary to regulate state machinery: CJ Iftikhar

25 April, 2011

ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry addressing the participants of National Judicial Conference in the federal cap
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RAWALPINDI: Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry on Sunday said it is a common misunderstanding that the judiciary acts against the executive while the truth is that the Constitution has ascribed this important role to the judiciary to help regulate the state machinery.

Addressing the concluding ceremony of the National Judicial Conference in Islamabad, he said after the lawyers’ movement, the judicial system had earned a reputation for great integrity, and the increase in public confidence was evident from the increase in litigations.

“Increased public expectations require a greater sense of responsibility by both the bench and the bar,” he said. “We have inherited the tradition of a dedicated collective endeavour by the bench and bar, and should strive to establish an unbreakable chain of cooperation between them for the greater efficiency, integrity and independence of the judicial system.”

He said increase in the confidence and expectations of the public had resulted in the bulk of litigation. “Delays in dispensing justice are inevitable due to the inadequate strength and capacity of courts,” the CJ said. “This is not only a matter of alarm in our society, but almost all countries have faced this problem at different times.”

The CJ said this delay in dispensing justice would alienate the public from approaching the courts to resolve their grievances. “The fabric of justice in any legal system is destroyed by delays. Justice, which is the primary objective and constitutional responsibility of the state and a right of citizens, is denied and defeated because of these delays,” he said. “All members of the bench and bar must strictly observe the high standards of integrity and morality, and take all steps to decide cases within the shortest-possible time to minimise the sufferings of litigants.”

The CJ said the judiciary had a special role to play in achieving the socio-economic goals and that judges have to be aware of their social task of achieving socio-economic justice for people. “The constitution of a state determines the independence and autonomy of every organ of the state, and subject to certain limitations and restrictions, at the same time ensures supremacy of the law, which is essential for the economic development of a country.”

The CJ said a vibrant, dynamic and independent judiciary would strengthen other institutions of the state and establish Pakistan’s credentials in the comity of nations. “All stakeholders in the justice delivery system must act in harmony, and work in cooperation, so that the system is healthy and effective.”

He said the judiciary was an important pillar and backbone of the state, and an independent judiciary was the prerequisite for a stronger nation. “The judiciary can be strong only if all stakeholders show an absolute commitment, dedication, character, professionalism and vision to work to meet challenges.”

The CJ said the idea of the National Judicial Conference was to bring all luminaries of judicial institutions under one roof to share their experiences and evolve a better strategy to address the problems faced by the country’s judicial system. He said the conference, under the auspices of the National Judicial Policy Making Committee (NJPMC), had now become a regular annual event.

“I hope that you have made the best use of this opportunity. I am keenly looking forward to presenting the discussed recommendations before the NJPMC for follow-up action, which will greatly contribute for further improvements in the working of the judicial administration of Pakistan,” the CJ said.

Elaborating, he said: “Our judicial system is constantly exposed to new, complex and multidimensional challenges. The outcome of this conference will certainly help us meet these challenges. We are aware that we do not have adequate infrastructure and facilities in terms of courtrooms, libraries, trained staff, etc. We also do not yet fully and effectively utilise the information communication technologies in our judicial system. Judicial officers, with the cooperation of other stakeholders, should take steps for improvements in the court management system under the guidelines issued by the policy. The bar must also come forward to install court automation equipment for the benefit of its members and bring our courts up to date with this age of information technology so that trial proceedings can be expedited.”

The CJ said in a democratic society the bulk of litigation increased with population growth and awareness of legal rights. He said the law and people’s aspirations should develop in the same direction, and that the march of the law was supervised by the judiciary through the inherent power of judicial review. “Usually, the law is unable to keep pace with emerging realities and aspirations of the nation. This necessitates amendments to the law. Amendments in substantive and procedural law are not an easy task, as consensus among the potential forces has to be answered to,” said the CJ. “Therefore, the NJPMC has taken up the task of reform within the domain of existing laws to provide inexpensive and expeditious justice and to live up to expectations and aspirations of the people.”

Justice Iftikhar said the judiciary had done a remarkable job of providing speedy justice to the people since the implementation of the policy. “By and large, the courts have come up to the aspirations of the litigant public. Nonetheless, there is scope for better performance and for making the system more efficient and progressive.”

Justice Iftikhar later read out the declaration agreed at the conference. The text of the declaration is as follows:

1. A multidimensional approach must be adopted for further improving the implementation of policy, taking into account the current areas needed to be addressed. Dialogue between bench, bar and other stakeholders should be encouraged by creating a sense of ownership about the policy. It should be ensured that the trickle-down impact of the policy be a substantive justice rather than focusing on mere disposal of cases.

2. Public interest litigation would be more successful with separate benches of judges established to hear human rights cases for a specified time, the involvement of commissions to share the burden of the judiciary, adoption of procedural rules by Supreme Court to channelise the cases, awareness amongst the legal fraternity to report the cases of human rights violation to high courts and holding of preliminary inquiry before taking suo motu.

3. The bench and bar should work in a friendly atmosphere while maintaining a professional distance along with dignity, appreciation and respect for each other. Periodic inter-professional learning workshops should be organised to allow both tiers of the judiciary to vent their grievances and concerns to foster compassion and understanding.

4. The measures of deterrence, prevention and education should be applied to encounter corruption. It is necessary to strengthen the surveillance systems of courts, especially at the district level. Malicious and false accusations against the good name of judicial officers should be strictly discouraged and addressed with disciplinary action.

5. The bench and bar should jointly formulate and propose credible amendments in the existing laws/rules for ADR as there is a pressing need for an inexpensive and effective ADR mechanism. Awareness campaigns and programmes must be launched to ensure that the public-at-large is aware of the benefits of ADR. Judges should be trained to effectively employ ADR mechanism.

6. There is a dire need for reformation of jails to provide a suitable environment to convicts so that after serving their term they should be reintegrated into society as responsible and law-abiding citizens. The prisoners should be treated humanely and their recognised rights should be protected. The jail manual is a comprehensive document but many of its provisions are not being enforced; jail authorities should ensure that the same is followed. Women and juveniles are particularly vulnerable members of society and therefore requisite care should be taken with them.

7. Plagiarism and counterfeiting should be treated as theft, deception and robbery. This calls for a review of ethical attitudes towards the IPR Laws among the general public and intellectual property owners by all available means. Counterfeiting medicines, syringes, healthcare devices, diagnostic kits, and other related medical equipment should be declared serious offences against humanity and carry enhanced punishments.

8. The curriculum of legal education should be so designed that it should just not be skill-based, but should also pave the way for future legal jurists. A council or committee comprising all the stakeholders should be constituted with the responsibility of formulating a National Legal Education Policy to be designated as ‘National Legal Council’. Continuing legal education for members of the bench and bar should be augmented at all levels.

9. State-of-the-art and contextually relevant information technology must be used to solve the widely-known problems of the Pakistani Justice System. The power of IT should be harnessed in court and case management to subsequently improve the litigant’s court experience. To this end, the national judicial automation committee should be empowered to play a leading role in conjunction with justice sector IT experts both in the public and private sector.

End.

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