The Judiciary And ADR Centres In Punjab
Our judiciary is often blamed for providing slow relief to litigants. This and other related accusations are made towards the judiciary without realising some very important facts and statistics related to the judiciary in Pakistan. In addition to understanding and visiting those conditions in which our judiciary works, it is also important to highlight some important judicial and administrative reforms not only to give credit where it is due but to also encourage such reforms and highlight feedback and results based on such reforms. I intend to bring the attention of the readers to such facts and their practical implications.
Pakistan is a highly litigious society where the overburdened judiciary copes every day to provide relief to litigants. According to a District and Sessions Judge, Sohail Nasir, there are around 1.3 million cases pending in the lower courts of Punjab[i]. Given that there are 2400 judges providing relief in these 1.3 million cases, it means that on average each judge has more than 540 cases to decide at a given time. Any person having to deal with 540 cases at a time would not only be overworked but also stressed, given that deciding a matter has some additional limitations including the following of specific timeframes in certain conditions. We must also not forget the culture of strikes which further hinders the process of adjudication. The Chief Justice of the Lahore High Court, Justice Mansoor Ali Shah, pointed out that lawyers “observed strikes for 1474 days in 36 districts of Punjab from September 1, 2016, to February 28, 2017”[ii]. 1474 strikes in mere 6 months is a big number, again causing delays in the dispensation of justice.
In the above scenario, it is the duty of the government to overhaul the lower judiciary, increase the number of judges or make other conditions conducive for early disposal of cases. The other option is for the judiciary itself to make some policies and procedures to use the small number of judges it has, in a way that the object of speedy disposal of cases is achieved despite the heavy load of cases in courts. To this end, the incumbent higher judiciary and especially the Chief Justice of the Lahore High Court, Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, has come up with a revolutionary approach to tackle the menace of slow relief to the suffering litigants. One of the initiatives of his tenure is the establishment of Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) Centres across the province of Punjab to segregate and dispose off much earlier the cases in which parties themselves are willing to reach an early settlement without the long procedures of the regular judicial process.
ADR Centres have been opened across the province of Punjab and in all the 36 districts with 72 dedicated judges to help parties achieve an amicable solution to their disputes. To refer a matter to the ADR Centre, the parties just have to give an application to the court hearing their case and have to consent to settle the matter through an ADR Centre. The judges in these centres are already trained by the Punjab Judicial Academy to help parties reach a settlement.
The much appreciable step has already started to pay dividends to litigants and they are going in large numbers to the ADR Centres to get the desired results of early disposal and amicable solution to their disputes. As per a report published by the Lahore High Court’s website, there were 437 references received by ADR Centres in 36 districts of Punjab in just 3 days, from the 1st of June till the 3rd of June, 2017, out of which 250 have already been settled[iii]. This is no doubt a phenomenal figure and a big achievement for everyone involved.
ADR centres are without any doubt a blessing for the litigants of Punjab. Where, on one hand, these centres are helping litigants arrive at an early resolution of their disputes, it is also decreasing the workload of the lower judiciary and helping them decide other cases in a justifiable timeframe. The people, as well as the judges working in Punjab, should appreciate the new dispute resolution methods initiated by the Chief Justice. Moreover, it is our duty to disseminate the information and spread the word to as many people as our voice allows.
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.