Do Strikes Hamper Access To Justice?
Any civilized society is constructed upon the rule of law. It means the supremacy of law which is a vital ingredient to run a democratic state. Similarly, access to justice has been acknowledged by our judicial setup as a leading component of the rule of law and a sign of an enlightened community.
A justice system is the most integral part of any society anywhere in the world. People need access to courts and legal processes to enforce their rights and corresponding responsibilities. Pakistan, with a population of 207,774,520, is a developing country with an abundance of demands and proportionate conflicts of interest. Accordingly, there is a greater need for litigation here.
In Pakistan, many barriers lie in the course of access to justice. A pressing issue pertains to the frequent strikes by lawyers. According to the statistics of 2017, 3,840 strikes were carried out in 11 months. The resulting backlog of cases due to these strikes by lawyers leaves a substantial impact on the judicial system.
It is an evident fact that legal proceeding(s) can be quite prolonged and when advocates are on strike, the system of courts gets even more disturbed. These strikes not only cause apprehension amongst the judiciary, they also create chaos in public. Ongoing cases tend to get adjourned when lawyers don’t appear in courts and due to this frequent adjournment of cases, the proficiency and efficiency of courts is significantly diminished and speedy access to justice for litigants is hindered.
In most instances, strikes are not pre-announced. Many times people reach courts from distant areas and other cities, only to be informed that their lawyer is on strike. This leaves a detrimental impact on a client. Furthermore, there is a lot of wastage of money and time. When people see that law and order in the country is not going to facilitate them and the courts are not able to render justice, they may take the law into their own hands. It has also been seen that witnesses face a lot of trouble when they appear in person in court for recording their testimony but there is a strike going on.
Due to strikes, the confidence of the society in litigation has been shattered for litigants who want speedy justice. When feasible, they may also resort to alternative dispute resolution (ADR) mechanisms but not all of them even know about them. On whatever occasion delayed justice is being discussed, the most convenient excuse made by the general public, politicians and even members of the Bar is to blame the judiciary for not delivering speedy justice. It is a mistake to not account for strikes in the delay of dispensation of justice because the Bench is useless without the assistance of the Bar.
Moreover, the blockage of roads by lawyers during such strikes is a very common phenomenon, especially in Lahore, which severely affects the entire traffic, thereby, creating innumerable problems for the public.
Strikes by advocates to justify their absence from court have predominantly not been carried out for legitimate reasons. Researchers have not been able to find a lot of persuasive reasons for which the advocates refuse to appear in court.
Lawyers need to regulate their acts and conduct as they have a huge impact on the society. Members belonging to the legal profession strive and secure justice for people as part of their duties and it is a privileged position to have. The Bar and the Bench must also maintain a healthy relationship in order to uphold the credibility and reputation that is associated with the profession, while the authorities are requested to direct their attention towards the issue of strikes and develop possible solutions to it.
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 she might be associated.