Justice Delayed Is Justice Denied
The problem of delayed justice is nothing new and has been growing since the independence of Pakistan. Many attempts have been made by eminent jurists, scholars, law commissions and committees constituted by successive governments to counter the problem without yielding any positive results. Nowadays, the problem has once again come under the limelight since some judgments rendered by the courts have been considered by some sections of the lawyers’ community to have been given in utter disregard of the legal principles and position.
Complexity of the issue requires dissection of the problem at each level and this is exactly what this article intends to do. Firstly, the problem is with the investigation carried out by the police department. After lodging of First Information Report (FIR), police is the first executive agency, especially in criminal cases, which reaches the crime scene for the purposes of carrying out an investigation. Conclusions drawn in the investigation constitute an important part of the proceedings before the court, which leads the court to a just and fair conclusion about the guilt or innocence of an accused person.
Generally, investigation consists of proceeding to the crime scene, ascertainment of facts, collection of evidence, search of the place, seizure of things used in the commission of the crime and arresting the suspect, if possible. The investigation is generally conducted by an investigation officer (IO) who usually turns out to be not very well qualified in terms of education – eligibility for the job being a separate issue. The IO is usually unaware about the method and modes of conducting investigation and hence, the trial is affected.
Thus, for a speedy and fair trail, we need a separate, special investigation police department. The department shall be answerable to the District Police Officer (DPO) in its administrative duty as the general police department but its main duty shall be circumscribed only to investigation. Qualification for the police shall be at least a graduate degree in law from a recognized university. Such investigation police shall be trained by experts, competent judges and lawyers in judicial academies and taught special techniques and skills which are used during investigation. This shall result in collection of evidence by the special police to be authentic and accurate and shall facilitate a judge in deciding the matter before court.
Judiciary in Pakistan at district level is itself a hurdle in the way of speedy justice. It is hosting three kinds of problems:
- insufficient number of judges at district level;
- recruitment of inexperienced or functionally illiterate judges with no specialization required over civil or criminal branch; and
- inadequate physical and human infrastructure to keep up with increasing litigation.
The crime ratio is also increasing day by day due to a fragile law and order situation. According to Peshawar High Court’s website, by the end of October 2016, around 33,302 cases were pending before the High Court while 187,840 cases were pending before district courts. Hence, every provincial government is required to recruit a sufficient number of judges at district level to clear the backlog of the cases.
Most judges in district courts are fresh graduates of law having no vigorous practical experience as a lawyer. Such fresh graduates face problems in dealing with the complications of cases of complex or technical nature. Recently, the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has recruited civil judges for whom 2 years experience as district lawyer was mandatory. Most of the recruited judges have licences but no experience, since many of them had not attended courts as they were employed elsewhere. Hence, we need to recruit those persons as judges whose practice is not just limited to attaining a licence but who have also acquired practical experience. A mechanism is required to address this problem.
Specialization and expertise over criminal or civil branches of law is also important. Options shall be given to them at the beginning of their training in judicial academies to pick one field of their choice. Then lawyers who are experts in these relevant fields (civil/criminal) shall be called to the judicial academy to guide and teach them about the technicalities which they might be faced with. They shall perform their duties in the specialized field (civil or criminal) till retirement. Such specialization will significantly help towards a speedy delivery of justice.
Time limitation for the declaration of a decree for both civil and criminal cases also needs to be introduced. For this purpose, our parliamentarians need to pass legislation in which they specify the time within which a case shall be disposed off. The specific time must be reasonable, neither too short to defeat the maxim “justice hurried is justice buried” nor so lengthy so as to defeat the concept of “justice delayed is justice denied”. Such legislation shall also bind the lawyers to strictly represent their plaintiffs on the day of hearing. Former Chief Justice, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry had introduced the National Judicial Policy with an aim to resolve civil and criminal cases within a fixed period of time but no commendable results were achieved. So such legislation can vigorously support in addressing the issues of a delayed justice system.
Protection of judges also merits consideration. Many judges have lost their lives, including Maqbool Baqi and Zulfiqar Naqvi in 2014. The protection of judges includes protecting their lives in and out of court as well as of their family members.
Introduction of the program for protection of witnesses is imperative. The US Witness Security Program or WITSEC was initiated pursuant to the Organized Crime Control Act 1970 and can be adopted as a model for witness protection. The role of witnesses in criminal and civil cases is that of a backbone. In case of non-protection of witnesses, they would not like to come before the court to give their testimony as they may feel threatened. In the cases of Ajmal Pahari, Kamran Madhuri and Wali Baber, all eye witnesses were killed systematically by the opposing side because of the absence of any security mechanism for them.
The new Chief Justice with the help of government is requested to tackle the problem of delayed justice and discuss the same with bars, eminent jurists and lawyers to derive a permanent solution.
An earlier version of this article was published in the Daily Times.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of CourtingTheLaw.com or any organization with which he might be associated.