An Open Letter To All Superior Court Judges
There is no denying the fact that we have an outdated legal system. The dispensation of justice is agonizingly slow, painful and strenuous. According to a report published by the World Justice Project 2020, Pakistan ranks 118th out of 128 countries surveyed regrading the civil justice system. There is no point in discussing the admitted position that the legal system is in dire need of overhaul. The utopian dream of having a perfect legal system is far from being true.
My lords, the purpose of this letter is to have a much improved legal system. So why do I write this letter to you and seek your help? And how, in my humble opinion, can your lordships play an instrumental role in refining the system?
Successive governments over the years have shown their inability and lack of intent to bring about any meaningful change. In fact, when they are in power, the status quo suits them as the system is already stacked in favour of those with influence and money. Therefore, one cannot leave it to the politicians (whose capabilities have already been tried and tested to no avail). One cannot also expect them to know the glitches and complications in the existing legal system better than your lordships.
On the other hand, judges of superior courts are some of the finest legal brains that we have. You have spent your entire lives in the profession and are in a much better position to recommend and implement much needed reforms. What I have observed over the years is that somehow it has been presumed to be the responsibility of the Chief Justice of Pakistan to bring change and mostly because of the limitation of his tenure, no reforms tend to be implemented. An honourable judge appointed at the age of 45 and superannuating at 65 has 20 years to bring reform. So why wait till one only becomes the Chief and has no time on his hands?
My lords, reforms can also be recommended by other stakeholders including senior lawyers but the amount of power and influence that you yield is what is required to make them work. You have much better access and awareness of all the administrative as well as financial issues than any other stakeholder. Recommendations coming from a high-powered committee comprising superior court judges is taken far more seriously. The number of fresh cases being instituted is far greater than the number of cases being disposed, hence the problem keeps getting worse, unless we flatten the curve. One solution is to increase the number of judges drastically. However, this brings in question the huge financial implication – which can be covered by self-generation of funds. The court fee for all commercial matters is only PKR 15,000 when companies can pay 20 times higher if their commercial disputes can get decided within a short span of time. This is one of thousands of solutions which can be considered and debated to bring much needed meaningful reform.
In view of the above, the need of the hour is to establish a Legal Reforms Committee (LRC) comprising all superior court judges across all provinces willing to bring reforms. The honourable Chief Justice of Pakistan may then, if he so pleases, relieve the honourable judges working on the LRC from judicial work. The LRC can also include lawyers and researchers (I assure you there will be many willing to work pro bono). It may also study successful models in different countries. The LRC will then publish a comprehensive report with all the recommendations covering all aspects including financial, administrative, judicial, etc. The recommendations can then be sent to the government for necessary legislation and, if required, mandatory directions can be issued by my lords. This may or may not work, but if we keep on using the same formula, we will not yield different results. As a stakeholder of the system, I hope to see an efficient legal system in Pakistan in my lifetime. I will also be the first volunteer to help the LRC in any way or form.
“Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”
– T.S. Eliot.
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.
Open letter should have revealed the specific suggestions also apart from spending wholesome energy on seemingly well bred words in the honor of illustrious justices. No doubt they are honorable for all f us, but brother try to hit a bull’s eye rather getting distracted un-necessarily.
Umer Arsalan Mustafa
Advocate High Court