In my fifteen (15) odd years of practice, the laws more or less continue to remain the same but our legal system has given offspring to the devil, which intrinsically now embeds at almost all levels of the legal spectrum. Starting from the stamp vendor, the registrars, the smaller courts and going up to the higher courts, there remains and visibly distinguished, rampant corruption use of ‘speed money’ and small scale bribes to bigger ones in the name of efficacy, which not only are the clients now willing to pay in order to facilitate their objectives, but has become so rampant in our judicial network, that there is no choice left for an honest lawyer.
The actual value of a stamp paper (a judicial paper used to print legal instruments) might be Rs: 100 (Rupees One Hundred) but almost all stamp vendors will now charge Rs: 120 onwards. This is just the tip of the ice berg, perhaps even just a small part of that tip. In the nine (09) towns operating in Lahore, a registrar sits on his seat, in fact he takes his work home, who gives permission for the local commission to get the instrument which is now on stamp paper signed by the relevant parties. The going rate (speed money) for permission of the local commission, which should technically be free, in routine, is now approximately from Rs: 100/- to Rs 500/-.
We all know about the infamous patwari, the SHO, and the court clerk and need I mention the names of judges whom have given injunctions, not just in the smaller courts but also in the high court. At every level and in every department, there is a price for someone to get the work done. One only needs to know the right link in the chain and all things are sorted, sitting quietly at home over a cup of coffee.
The results are catastrophic, the whole legal profession is brewing into a wicked potion of connections, references and bribery in this country and this links on to every institution. Pakistani Students studying law abroad do not want to come back and those who try, find themselves unable to adjust to a system devoid of any merit. It is a system that does not reward their intellect, their grasp of the law, their hard work, or their ambitions to succeed. It is at best a failed legal system, without any bench marks. It makes them chose a degraded form of moralityover what they have been taught in colleges abroad, and they become a misnomer, if they fail to fit into the “black market”. Themajority of lawyers who do find themselves stuck in this legal conundrum, have graduated from local colleges and have no other choices available to them.
Although, the legal system, has become from bad to worse, it can’t really be blamed. As lawyers, and part of that system, we have failed to take the necessary measures, nor have we clearly set any appropriate bench marks to address the problems. The monstrosity of it all actually evolves from the despicable state of our education system. Our law colleges have become greedy corporate entities giving no regard to the quality of the students they accept as opposed to universities abroad which only accept the very best into their law colleges. I personally know at least ten (10) lawyers whonever sat for the exam, yet were able to obtain law degrees, through some means or another. Even the actual education in law colleges, fails to teach students the necessary theoretical framework required for an early entry into the profession. I interview young lawyers regularly for work in my firm and have come to the conclusion that the vast majority of them fall far below even any rudimentary western standard of legal education in terms of their theoretical knowledge of the law. After completing their law degrees, the second door into the legal profession requires the bar exam almost everywhere. I need not even try to compare the New York Bar Exam, which almost everyone fails on their first attempt to the test administered by our Punjab Bar Council or for that matter any other bar in the country. Lastly, there are no professional development courses, mandatorily required by our Bar Councils, for continuing legal education, which could consistently monitor advocates and their progression into the profession.
The long term effect of the legal educational deficit and lack of focus on policies in this area, has caused a growing number of problems. One of them is the influx of unqualified or rather inadequate lawyers into the legal profession, whom lack the basic criteria for early practice. This has led to frustration in the growing community of young lawyers to find other avenuesof success but without having the required tools to do so. This phenomenon has over politicized bar societies and forced lawyer candidates to run for bar elections in order to find success, without ever having to work hard. This is not to say that some successful and good lawyers are also running for the bar from time to time, but it is rare. Successful candidates for the post of president as well as for other posts later get picked for the judiciary directly in the High Court. Election candidates who later become part of the judiciary then go on to oblige their counterparts and supporters for during the run up to elections. It’s a vicious circle and a terrible one. One that encourages failure to succeed, and those who have worked hard to succeed to fail.
At the end of the day, our legal system remains in tatters, until well thought out policies are made and implemented in real terms on two main themes. Improving the gateway and entry to our legal system on high meritorious basis and developing mandatory professional development courses for our existing lawyers whom are already in the mainstream.