Why Do Our Courts Vacation So Much?
Vacations are not a luxury; they are a necessity for a well-balanced and healthy life. For some, it is as important as eating well and exercising. Doctors and researchers have, time and again, stressed the importance and benefits of vacations, which inter alia include relieving stress, strengthening relationships, increasing productivity, etc.
However, the pertinent question is should our lordships vacation so much to be productive? Should they vacation at the same time, which in effect shuts down all courts and forums of legal redressal?
It is astonishing to note that according to the calendar available on the Lahore High Court website, out of a possible 365 days the Court is officially on holiday for 93 days, and if we also factor in the weekends when the Court is not functioning, the total holidays come to 176. The calendar of the Lahore High Court also makes special note of the following:
“The Lahore High Court shall observe winter holidays from 25th December (Sunday), 2016 to 8th January (Sunday), 2017.
The long vacation of the Lahore High Court shall be from 4th July (Monday), to 3rd September (Saturday), 2016.”
I am not saying that all judges should be made to work 365 days a year or that they should not be allowed a vacation. However, my humble suggestion to the Honourable Chief Justice of the Lahore High Court, who I firmly believe is the most competent judge in the entire subcontinent, is to: (i) reduce the number of holidays and (ii) make the annual vacations available to the judges in turn, rather than all at once. This step alone could help gain valuable court time that would be immensely beneficial for the poor litigants whose cases have been pending for years.
It is pertinent to mention that India has a similar colonial heritage when it comes to vacations in court, but The 230th Report of the Law Commission on Reforms of Judiciary made the following valuable recommendations:
“Considering the huge pendency of cases at all levels of judicial hierarchy, it has become necessary to increase the number of working days. It has to be introduced at all levels of judicial hierarchy and must start from the apex court. With the increase in the salaries and perks of the Judges, it is their moral duty to respond commensurately. Opportunities to attend conferences/legal seminars in foreign countries should be given to all the Judges of the Supreme Court and Chief Justices of the High Court in turn. Frequent visits by the Judges to foreign countries at very high cost should be avoided in view of the austerity measures by the Government of India.”
I believe the said recommendations hold true for our judiciary as well. We must increase the number of working days to help clear the backlog of cases and so that the poor litigants can get some respite. It is no secret that litigation in Pakistan is extremely slow and painful. It takes generations for cases to be decided. This should not imply that a long vacation on its own is the only factor causing unimaginable delays. The entire system needs a complete overhaul; the Civil Procedure Code which regulates the courts on the civil side is dated 1908 and the Criminal Procedure Code is dated 1898!
However, this small step of a little less vacationing and perhaps a little more judging would be a step in the right direction and would help the cause of justice for all, as Frank Tyger aptly puts it, “When you like your work, every day is a holiday.”
This article was previously published in the Daily Times and is being republished here with permission.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of CourtingTheLaw.com or any other organization with which he might be associated.