Judicial activism further delays dispensation of justice

One fine day in November 2002, former Information Minister, (Late) Khalid Ahmad Kharal, filed an election petition in Lahore High Court, seeking the disqualification of his opponent Riaz Fatiana, who had won his seat for NA-94, Kamalia in Elections 2002. Kharal’s petition revolved around the fact that his opponent was convicted by an accountability court on corruption charges, therefore he was not eligible to contest the elections. His petition was admitted but further proceedings did not take place for several years to come. Upon the completion of the parliament’s tenure in 2007, Kharal’s petition lost its legal position as Lahore High Court failed to accommodate it in time.

The scene changes. On October 9, 2016, Supreme Court of Pakistan acquitted Mazhar Hussain, who was convicted in a murder case by a lower court, two years after his demise. Mazhar died of coronary disease in jail before hearing the decision. According to reports, the apex court was unaware of his death.

The scene changed yet again. Presently, it is January 30, 2018 in the Supreme Court of Pakistan where the court has finally reached a verdict on a century old property case. According to the details, the petition was originally filed in a civil court by Roshnai Begum against her brother Shahabud Din for fair distribution of property in 1918. At the time, the property and the case were pertinent to Rajasthan in India. After the partition, the property and case were transferred to Bahawalpur, Pakistan. Sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters and great grandsons and great granddaughters of Roshnai Begum and Shahabud Din kept pursuing the case for their proprietary rights. It took the court nearly a century to conclude the case. A bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan, Saqib Nisar, ordered that 56 squares of the disputed land be distributed amongst the legal heirs. The court was told that the number of legal heirs includes 500 people. The case was heard by various lower and high courts and Supreme Court of Pakistan made the final decision.

These are merely three examples of such cases, while the lower, higher and superior courts of Pakistan are rampant with similar ones. There is no way to jettison the already overburdened justice system.

Currently, the judges of high and supreme courts are preoccupied with suo moto notices and passing administrative orders in the public’s interest, which might be a partial part of the judges’ job description. Courts in Pakistan suffer an estimated backlog of nearly 0.3 million cases across the country.  The judiciary’s first and top priority must be to decide cases rapidly based on fair grounds. However, it has failed to do its job. While judicial activism might be good in a corruption-stricken society like Pakistan, it cannot be worn well unless the judiciary is providing justice to the masses without delay. If the judiciary continues to overlook its prime duty, which is dispensing justice, social balance will proceed to tip. The judiciary must go back to its constitutionally prescribed role under the captaincy of the Chief Justice, Saqib Nisar, before justice is delayed for a lengthier period of time.

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