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Judicial reforms

July 19, 2016

Print : Editorial

A new chief justice has taken charge of the Punjab judiciary. Reputed to be an
innovative and principled judge during his time in the Lahore High Court, the new
LHC Chief Justice Mansoor Ali Shah has set up eliminating corruption from the
judiciary as the main aim of its tenure. He has correctly identified the primary focus
as the improvement of the functioning of the district judiciary. The second target will
be improving the competence of judges. For that, several judges have been sent for
judicial training. The third element of the judicial reform will be on improving the
relationship between lawyers and judges, especially the behaviour of the latter
towards the former. It is good to see that the LHC CJ has looked within the judiciary
first for improvement. The CJ could have easily pointed to external factors, such as
the increased incidence of lawyers violence towards judges or the increased security
threat facing judges. He chose to look inwards. One can only control what is within
ones own domain. It is good that the LHC CJ recognises this.
The need for judicial reform is obvious throughout the country. Each provincial
judiciary will have to take on the agenda. The biggest issue remains the large log of
unresolved cases, some of which go back to at least four decades. There are at least
1.3 million cases still pending within the LHC. Let the number sink in. The fact that
there is such a large case log still pending shows why people turn to the judiciary to
delay justice, rather than get justice. The LHC CJ has stated that improving the
judiciary is no rocket science. But somehow, despite years of attempting to change
how the judiciary works, there has been limited progress. Even the judicial
movement against the Musharraf dictatorship and the judicial reform led by former
Supreme Court CJ Iftikhar Chaudhry was unable to institute any structural change.
The LHC full court bench has also taken on the long-standing demand to create five
more LHC benches as well as increasing the number of judges from 60 to 100. It has
decided against the new benches on the logic that doing so would remove the
difference between the district and the high court. This seems like a sensible
decision. The LHC CJ has struck the right notes. This is in line with SC CJ Anwar
Jamalis attempts to keep the judiciary out of prolonged political wrangling over
issues such as the Panama leaks. The control of the lower judiciary remains much
more with the provincial high court CJs who can oversee the finer details of judicial
reform. The LHC CJ has taken the bold step of setting out an agenda for reforming
the provinces judiciary. It is important that other provincial judiciaries follow suit.