Monday (tomorrow) marks the beginning of the new judicial year with a ceremony at the Supreme Court, which will be addressed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed and representatives of the top lawyers’ bodies.
All the apex court judges, the attorney general for Pakistan, office-bearers of the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) and the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) will attend the ceremony at in the Courtroom No 1. PBC vice chairman and the SCBA president will also address the event.
However, like the previous year, superior judiciary is faced with almost similar challenges in the new judicial year 2021-22, according to analysts. During the previous year, they believe, the biggest success of top court was to thwart attempts for the removal of Justice Qazi Faez Isa.
Representatives of the superior court bars also believe that the establishment was the architect of the presidential reference against Justice Isa because of his few judicial verdicts. However, majority judges foiled the plan by accepting Justice Isa and others’ review petitions against the decision to refer the matter to the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) for inquiry regarding assets of his family members.
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During the proceedings of Justice Isa case, differences among the top court judges were also witnessed. At one point, SCBA President Lateef Afridi had to implore the court to end the perception that its judges were divided. He had also said that there was a perception that dissenting judicial voices were being silenced.
During the last two years, the apex court’s proceedings were affected by Covid-19 pandemic, as the backlog of cases reached its highest level. By August 31 this year, 53,686 cases were pending – over 8,000 more than the total pendency at the end of the preceding year.
During the tenure of the incumbent chief justice, who is retiring in February next year, more than 11,000 cases have been added to the total pendency.
Since the restoration of the top court judges in March 2009, the apex court could not evolve a comprehensive case management system to clear the backlog. No strategy had been seen so far as to how the pendency could be cleared during pandemic.
The lawyers suggested that there was the need for holding full court meetings to devise a strategy to reduce the pendency. Likewise, they opined that an objective criterion must be evolved regarding the appointment of superior courts judges.
The office of the chief justice of Pakistan is pivotal to set priorities of the court. The chief justice has the power to fix cases and form benches. There is the need that the chief justice’s discretionary powers should be regulated in order to maintain more transparency in judicial affairs, they said.
The chief justice must be appreciated regarding his bold actions about the incidents wherein minorities were targeted during last one year. Likewise, culture of comprehensive discussions during judicial commission’s meetings was also started during incumbent CJP tenure. It is high time that the chief justice should take steps to meet above mentioned challenges.