A recent parliamentary question in the National Assembly has revealed that there is a huge backlog of cases in Pakistan’s provincial high courts. According to the data provided by the Ministry of Law and Justice, there are nearly 200,000 cases pending in the High Courts of Sindh, Balochistan, Peshawar High Court, and Islamabad High Court, etc.
Data for each High Court
- In the District Judiciary KP, the current status of the backlog is 43711 including 5054 periodical and execution petitions. The actual backlog status in Peshawar High Court is 39120 cases. (Total: 82831 cases)
- The High Court of Sindh has informed that 7998 cases are pending in the High Court. 40731 cases are pending in the District Judiciary of Sindh. 1773 cases are pending in the Ex-Cadre/ Special Court of Federal Govt. and 1423 cases are pending in the Ex-Cadre/ Special Court of Provincial Government up to 30-04-2023. (Total: 51925 cases)
- In Balochistan District Judiciary, 16295 cases are pending throughout Balochistan while in the High Court of Balochistan 13 Judges are confronted with 4693 cases. (Total: 20988 cases)
- The Registrar, of Islamabad High Court has informed that 902 Criminal cases and 14489 Civil cases are pending in that Court upto 30-04-2023 while in ICT District Judiciary, the number of cases mounts up to 27525 which have been filed after the year 2015. (Total: 42916 cases)
- The Chief Justice of the Lahore High Court declined to provide the information.
Key findings from the data
The main reason for the backlog is the shortage of judges. The number of judges in Pakistan is not enough to meet the demand, and this has led to a delay in the disposal of cases. In addition, the government has not taken any steps to increase the number of judges, despite repeated requests from the High Courts.
Another reason for the backlog is the lack of a system for hearing cases in double shifts. This would allow judges to hear more cases per day, and it would help to reduce the backlog. However, there is no such system in place in Pakistan.
Efforts to make the situation better
The Peshawar High Court has repeatedly requested the provincial and federal governments to increase the number of judges in the district and high courts. The court believes that the merger of the tribal districts into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has increased the number of pending cases and that more judges are needed to address this backlog.
The High Court of Sindh has not made any proposal to increase the number of judges in the subordinate courts. However, the Chief Justice has given his concurrence to the establishment of a new special court (Custom, Taxation & Anti-Smuggling) in Karachi.
The court believes that this new court will help to reduce the backlog of cases in the city. However, it is not clear how much of an impact this will have on the overall backlog of cases in the province.
The Balochistan High Court believes that filling the vacant posts of judges is important, but it is not the only solution to clearing the backlog of cases. The court also believes that judges and lawyers need to be more sensitive and responsible in their handling of pending cases.
The backlog of cases in Pakistan’s courts is a serious problem that needs to be addressed. The High Courts of Pakistan have made a number of suggestions and recommendations on how to address the backlog of cases. These suggestions include increasing the number of judges, introducing a system for hearing cases in double shifts, and forming a committee to investigate the reasons for the backlog. The government should consider these suggestions and act to address this serious problem. The government should also encourage judges and lawyers to be more sensitive and responsible in their handling of pending cases. This would help to ensure that cases are processed more quickly and efficiently.
Muhammad Asad Ayaz is a parliamentary functionary and researcher based in Islamabad. He tweets as @asadayaz_