Never before in our parliamentary history has someone challenged the elected elite of the country to such extremes. Chief Justice of Pakistan Anwar Zaheer Jamali underscored – loudly and unambiguously – in his juridical address – the first-ever by any CJP in the history of Senate of Pakistan – the need for obtaining conditions necessary for provision of inexpensive and expeditious justice to the common man.
Anxious to know why justice remains a half-empty glass in Pakistan the Senators wanted to hear from the chief judge – as if it was not their but others’ liability. CJP Jamali accepted their invitation in the framework of ‘Intra-institutional Dialogue’ and spoke at length on what has gone wrong and how to retrieve the ground lost to injustice.
It was the first-ever experiment on the part of the Senate, and possibly not very gratifying as the Chief Justice politely rolled the ball back into its court. The problem, he said, is with implementation of laws, and lies with the “chosen representatives of people” who are under oath to “to ensure that the constitutional mandate and citizens’ lives and interests [are] protected and promoted effectively.”
It is “primarily for the parliament to examine, invest and to improve the quality and reach of justice services based on its oversight functions, representativeness, to legislate and budget for change”. There is enough law on the statute book which if implemented is good enough to provide inexpensive justice, he said.
Even where there are the ombudsman’s office and Article 10A’s diktat, the citizens’ rights are daily violated and “there are no standards for transparency, thereby enabling corruption and crime to go unchecked behind closed doors”. Rightly then he doubted if it was “visible to the citizen that no one is above the law and laws are made for the welfare of the public”. If not, the State tends to lose allegiance of its citizens and “cannot sustain in the long-term”.
Strict adherence to rule of law being a pre-condition to “sustained growth and development”, Chief Justice Jamali expected of the government the “strengthening of judicial system, revamping the police and criminal justice system, reviewing the rules and regulations and reinforcing formal and informal channels of dispute resolution”.
The Chief Justice of Pakistan shed light on the imperatives of parliament coming to grips with the challenge of inexpensive and speedy justice for all by ensuring implementation of law. He also acknowledged that the present justice system caters for only 20 percent of disputes, as the rest are dealt with by the informal justice system such as jirgas and panchayats.
It may be so, as courts have run out of their capacity to deliver prompt justice given the enormous increase in population, abounding illiteracy and the unrelenting high crime rate. And the Chief Justice has also expressed the fact that there is “no quality assurance of justice service provision” and there is “no monitoring and evaluation of what we deliver”. He is spot on in identifying this deficiency and its removal is an imperative for the much-needed social cohesion “we need to proactively ensure that justice and security protection reaches out to the poor and most vulnerable”.
How to go about this? He informed the house that the Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan has been asked to conduct a justice needs assessment, strengthen the information base and monitor and evaluate the justice services. This is expected to ensure timely, effective and fair justice to citizens. He didn’t mention any piece of legislation, including the 18th Constitutional Amendment, which was short on drafting quality. But he did observe that “since we have not developed legislative drafting into a specialised skill, the incorporation of constitutional policy and legislation remain problematic and weak”.
In sum total, Chief Justice Jamali’s rather frank opinion about the role of parliament tends to put the higher judiciary and the Senate on two separate pages. The CJP’s disagreement with three of the four suggestions about the number of appeals in higher courts Chairman Raza Rabbani had made in his welcome address gives some idea about the width of the gulf between judiciary and the upper house of parliament. But that is part of the game now set rolling by a legal eagle Rabbani. We hope the next invitation to the CJP will come from the Speaker of the National Assembly soon after he is elected.
Source: Business Recorder