Intra Court Appeal Shouldn’t Be Abolished
A couple of months ago, a Senate committee adopted a draft report on “Provision of Inexpensive and Speedy Justice”. The report recommended some necessary amendments to be made in the legal system for dispensing speedy and transparent justice. According to the report, changes have been recommended in the Civil Procedure Code, Law Reforms Ordinance 1972, Land Acquisition Act 1894, Criminal Procedure Code, Witness Protection, Security and Benefit Act, Arbitration and Conciliation Act, Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Act, Anti-Terrorism Act. However, several other recommendations have been made by the committee, one of which is that the police officials are to be held responsible and punished for extending false and fabricated information under Section 182 of Criminal Code of Procedure (CrPC). Recording of statements under Section 161 of CrPC should be recorded timely on the crime scene.
Furthermore, protection of witnesses, judges and prosecutors should be designed and evidentiary value of confessional statement in terrorism related cases should also be enhanced. The committee also recommended an increase in number of judges in the Supreme Court from 17 to 27 as the number has remained stagnant since 1997, while the population of the country has increased. The noteworthy recommendation suggested by the committee relates to abolition of regime of Intra Court Appeal (ICA) at the High Court level, which seems very interesting, spurring a debate among legal thinkers and practitioners within Pakistan.
At the outset, it is pertinent to mention here that the ICA was introduced through the promulgation of Law Reforms Ordinance XII of 1972 (LRA) and Section 3 of the Ordinance deals with it. This section confers a right upon the litigant unhappy or dissatisfied with the orders of the single bench of the High Court to appeal against such orders before two or more judges of the High Court. The committee has proposed for challenging the decision of single bench directly in the Supreme Court. Moreover, the Senate committee members termed the promulgation of the ICA as “brainchild of legal experts”. They claimed that the abolition of the ICA at the High Court would certainly decrease the burden of work upon the judges of the High Court.
My contention is that abolition of the ICA would serve no purpose whatsoever; this right to appeal within the High Court should not be abolished. It is my opinion that the Supreme Court will be overburdened if the remedy of the ICA is abolished. The committee has suggested that the decision of single bench shall be challenged in the Supreme Court directly instead of first challenging it within the High Court through Intra Court Appeal. Under the current civil legal system, the disputed matter is brought before the civil court whose decision can be challenged before an Additional District and Session Judge (ASJ). The decision of an ASJ is challengeable before a single bench of the High Court. If the party is dissatisfied or it finds legal lacuna in the decision of the single bench,it can submit an Intra Court Appeal, which is placed before the divisional bench (DB) of the High Court.The verdict of the DB operating under the ICA is appealable in the Supreme Court for adjudication, where the matter attains finality.
In my opinion the abolition of remedy of the ICA will only affect the litigants, making the already implacable legal system more drastic. The process of dispensation of swift and speedy justice would become a mere fantasy. I know the legal system of Pakistan is in need of amendments but simply abolishing Intra Court Appeal should not be on the cards. There is a need to introduce serious and effective amendments in Criminal Code of Procedure and Civil Code of Procedure for making the legal system deliver and work effectively. The process as well as seeking justice in Pakistan is a very lengthy procedure as the whole system of legal mechanism is complicated, outdated and ineffective.
The parties in dispute when set the legal machinery in motion at the lower judiciary level and reach the High Court find themselves exhausted and annoyed with the legal system. To me, having the remedy of Intra Court Appeal within the High Court is an effective way to provide litigants an easy way for legal redressal of their grievances,if dissatisfied with the decision of a single bench of the High Court. If this regime is abolished the ordinary litigants from rural backgrounds would stop trusting the legal mechanism of Pakistan for adequate redressal of their grievances.
The legal system of Pakistan, undoubtedly, needs drastic changes for dispensation of speedy justice. The dispensation of justice in Pakistan is slow, illustrating the wise maxim that “justice delayed is justice denied”. The proposed recommendations look good on paper but in reality and in practice they may not work. In rare circumstances the High Courts of Pakistan have accepted the appeal under Section 3. In my opinion, the ICA serves the purpose of filtration of cases within the High Court, and after having the opinion of the divisional bench only then the case can be sent to the Supreme Court. I therefore conclude that the ICA should remain a part of the legal system of Pakistan.
This article was previously published in Daily Times and is being republished here with permission.
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