Court Structure in Pakistan

The Court structure in Pakistan is as follows:

Supreme Court:   Acts as the final guardian of the Constitution. It is also the final Court of Appeal in matters arising out of cases decided by the High Courts, and in this capacity, it replaces the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, sitting in London. The permanent seat of the Supreme Court is in Islamabad while it has branch registries in all four provincial capitals.

High Court:  the four High Courts in the Provinces, exercise general control over the administration of justice in their respective territorial limits. There is also High Court in federal Capital Islamabad. The High Court is an appellate Court for all Civil and Criminal matters in the respective province.  Articles 192 to Article 203 in Part VII of the Constitution deal with matters pertaining to High Court functioning.

Civil Courts:  All Civil Courts are subordinate to the High Court and subject to the general superintence and control of the High Court; the District Judge has control over all Civil Courts within the local limits of his jurisdiction.  Civil Courts in Pakistan are established by the respective province under different laws titled the Civil Courts Ordinance 1962 which recognizes the following main classes of Civil Courts:

  1. The court of District Judge
  2. The court of Additional District Judge
  3. The court of Civil Court

Criminal Courts:  The Criminal procedure in Pakistan is laid down in the Code of Criminal Procedure 1868, whereas the substantive law about definition about a crime and its punishment is found in Pakistan Penal Code 1860.  The main Criminal Courts in Pakistan are:

1. High Court

2. Court of Session

3. Court of Magistrate

High Courts are the Constitutional courts established under the Constitution of Pakistan. However at the same time they also exercise powers as criminal courts.

A Court of Session comprises of Sessions Judge and Additional Sessions Judge.

Magistrates fall under three main categories namely Magistrates of first class, Magistrates of Second Class and Magistrate of third Class. All Magistrates are subordinate to the Sessions Judge of their respective division.

Special Courts:  Several special Courts and Tribunals have also been established through different laws to deal with specified matters such as Income Tax Tribunal, labour Courts, Family Courts, Rent Tribunals, Anti-Terrorism Courts, and Board of Revenues etc. their powers and jurisdiction are specified in the statues creating them.

Federal Shariah Court: Federal Sharaih Courts have been established to examine and decide the question whether or not any provision of law is repugnant to the Injunctions of Islam as laid down in the Holy Quran and Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him).  If a law is found to be repugnant the Court is to provide notice to the level of government concerned specifying the reasons for its decision. The court also had jurisdiction to examine any decision of any criminal court relating to the application of hudod penalties.  The Supreme Court also has a Shariat Appellate Bench empowered to review the decisions of Federal Shariat Court. According to Article 277 all existing laws shall be brought in conformity with the Injunctions of Islam and Chapter 3-A pertains to the functions and organization of Federal Shariah Court.

Qazi courts: This idea of Qazi courts gained momentum during the 1980s Islamization program. Basically, efforts were being made to replace the current judicial system with the system of Qazi and Majlis e Shura as it was practiced in the early day of Islam.

Qazi courts were established in KPK and Baluchistan provinces to provide speedy legal remedies but this idea could not be implemented on a national level.

A person can be appointed as Qazi if he possesses a Sanad/Dars e Nizami from a renowned Darul Uloom or if he is a law graduate from a recognized university. The minimum age limit is 28 years but the government can relax the age restriction if it wants. Qazis are appointed through the Public Service Commission.

Court fee and process fee of the Qazi courts are levied according to the provisions of Dasturul Amal Diwani of Kalat. Proceedings before the Qazi courts are according to the Civil Procedure Code. However original civil suits are filed with the Assistant Commissioners and Tehsildars who will refer them to Qazi or Majlis e Shura.

Jirga System

The Jirga system was enacted in KPK through an Act of Parliament in 1977, because it was felt that there must be a separate local body for adjudication of disputes on special matters which are relevant to a specific area. This Act only provided for a jirga system in KPK but then in Baluchistan, the practice of Jirga system was quite common because it’s a custom there that the notables of area would decide various disputes concerning minor offences.

A jirga consists of a government official normally a Naib or Naib Tehsildar who works as the president of the Jirga and he is assisted by two other members, which are appointed by the Deputy Commissioner. Jirga has the same powers as a civil court does under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, pertaining to enforcing attendance of witness or production of documents, etc. Jirga must give both parties equal opportunity to present their point of view and it may demand such evidence as may be necessary. The Qanun-e-Shahadat order of 1984 applies to all proceedings before the jirga. Witnesses may be cross examined and the Jirga has the authority to administer oath to a witness, consistent with his/her religion. The parties can be represented and defended by legal practitioners in cases before the Jirga.

If any party is dissatisfied with the decision of the Jirga it may file for an appeal with the Commissioner within 60 days of the receipt of the decision. Furthermore, unless stated in the Act, no decision, decree or judgment passed by the Jirga cannot be called up in any court or before any other authority.



Maryam Hayat

Author: Maryam Hayat

The writer is a Barrister working as an Associate for Kilam Law and is also a member of the Editorial Team at Courting the Law.