Pakistan’s Legal System | A Shambles in Need of Reform

There are apparent rules within Pakistan’s legal system for running the courts and the judiciary. These rules are meant to streamline the entire legal process and create the ideal conditions for the proper disposal of cases and the distribution of justice.

Yet, the legal system of Pakistan needs to be revised. Many of the issues our courts face today can be solved by simply following the rules that have been set. We will discuss some of these issues today.

Decade-Long Cases

There are limits set within the constitution and its subordinate statutes for every step of the legal process. For example, a criminal case must be disposed of within 6 months. A civil suit for recovery of property cannot be filed more than 3 years after the fact and for a breach of contract more than 6 months after the breach.

Yet, several cases in our courts have been pending for decades. Innocent people suspected of crimes they didn’t commit are spending years in prison simply waiting for a conclusion to their cases. Generations inherit civil disputes that their forefathers had once begun.

If the time limits set by our legislature are followed in the actual letter and spirit of the law, many of these issues may be curtailed.

A Litigious Population

As of last year, there is a backlog of over 2.2 million pending cases across Pakistani courts. The Supreme court receives 25,000 new cases annually. The sheer amount of disputes that lead to litigation in our country is nothing short of a problem.

There exist proper mechanisms for arbitration, negotiation, and other peaceful means of dispute settlement that would take the load off the courts—and this does work, as 96% of the cases in the US get disposed of through out-of-court settlement—but there is little use of these mechanisms as it would seem.

Be it the lack of extra-judicial solutions to these disputes or the habits and ways of the people themselves, it is clear that the number of new cases coming into the courts is far greater than the number getting disposed of, and this also partly has to do with the next issue.

A Lack of Judges

There are a little over 3000 judges currently hearing cases in Pakistan. Compare that to the colossal number of pending cases, and even this is enough indication of why we have such a problem. This is not even to mention that about 25% of these positions are vacant.

This can have many reasons, including the threats that judges face, the politicization of these offices, or perhaps even the lawyers themselves, which leads me to my next point.

Lawyers or Gangsters?

In our country, lawyers are among the most influential groups of people. They are meant to be court officers and advocates for justice, but many of these officers are contributing to the problems rather than solving them.

The immunization and subsequent unionization of lawyers have led to mobs across the courts. No rules or laws apply to these lawyers because they do everything they can to bring the system to a standstill if they are enforced.

Judges are abused in court while proceedings occur despite the judge’s power to sanction them for contempt of court. Strikes are taking place at every perceived inconvenience.

Powers are abused vehemently; lawyers on the payrolls of guilty clients get paid to delay cases as much as possible by taking adjournments every month—taking more than 3 of which leads to dismissal or a one-sided decision of a case, and yet that cannot be enforced.

These issues need to be addressed, and the people responsible need to be brought to justice because, as the famous saying goes, justice delayed is justice denied. But it does not help that the judges of the Supreme Court find it even vaguely appropriate to lecture 5th-semester law students on their responsibility to fix this system when they seem unable to contribute anything.

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