Miscarriage of Justice - Part 1
By Shah N. Khan, moderator and founder Pakistan post
According to the reports appearing in local press, about four million cases were pending in different courts of Pakistan as of January 1, 2003. That is despite the fact that most of the crimes specially the minor ones are not reported and the police does not register FIR (First Information Report) for most crimes and complaints for criminal offenses. According to rough estimates cases are registered hardly for 30% crimes in urban area and not even 10% in rural areas. Crimes like theft of covers of sewerage manholes, most of the traffic offenses, local brawls, thefts of less valuable articles like bicycles, dacoity of mobile phones on gunpoint are rarely reported or registered. In remote tribal area Jirga system is still followed for administration of justice and proper records are not kept.
Justice delayed is justice denied.
In a seminar former chief Justice Nasir Aslam Zahid disclosed recently that there were 1.5 million cases pending in civil courts in Pakistan. He also said that in India 40 million cases were pending in courts and it would take 324 years to clear the backlog even if new cases were not registered in that country.
Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Nazim Husain Siddiqui said at the Punjab Bar Council dinner recently that litigation in the country was on the increase mainly because socio-economic justice and rule of law were more or less absent. He cited the example of the institution of cases in the Supreme Court, which outnumbered the disposal rate during the year 2003 to substantiate what he said about the huge number of cases, both criminal and civil, pending with the apex court.
President Musharraf and PM Shaukat Aziz have expressed concern over the situation and they also took a notice of the fact that in majority of cases against the Governments at provincial and federal levels court decisions go against the government. But they do not seem to have realized the need for holding those officers accountable whose decision had forced the people to go to court to seek justice. In most of the cases of litigation involving government it is the misuse of power and negative approach of the civil servants or their trick to induce people to offer bribe that need to be questioned and disciplinary action taken against them. Much litigation would be avoided if the civil servants worked honestly and conscientiously according to Islamic ideals of good governance and use of authority.
High Cost of obtaining justice!
During the regime of President Musharraf there has been tremendous increase in the fees of the courts, lawyers etc. which a common citizen can hardly afford. In quite a lot of cases people are forced to enter into litigation due to negative approach and attitude of the officials in different department and autonomous bodies. Some of them adopt intimidating postures on flimsy grounds or minor technicalities in order to extract gratification and bribe. Civil and legal rights of the citizens are usurped with impunity and the harassed citizen has to go to the court in order to seek justice. That adds to the pressure of work on the courts specially as offending officials keep on filing appeals to higher courts and the cases drag on for years adding to the financial burden of the individual.
Ombudsman’s office is helping people.
Administration of justice is collective responsibility of the society and every individual who holds power must use it judiciously and fairly. Justice to Everyone without Exception
Holy Quran very strongly stresses upon the need for doing justice in absolute terms in all walks of life. It mandates doing justice without any discrimination – unconditionally in all circumstances and situations specially when exercising the authority or assisting in that respect in administration of public affairs or taking any decision regarding day-to-day affairs. Justice must be done, not merely in courts but in all types of dealings without consideration of race, religion, caste, sex , status or relationship. Doing justice is regarded as duty of Muslims.
Holy Quran prescribes Justice at all
levels to Everyone without Exception.
Most of the courts are ill equipped. The working conditions are often poor due to lack of facilities and neglected maintenance of buildings and offices. Politicians and news analysts have been writing about growing corruption in courts and law enforcement agencies and their role in corrupting and delaying the court proceedings..
To provide justice swiftly and promptly is the prime responsibility of the Government. Much needs to be done to improve things at all levels.
There is an old saying; " All power corrupts. Nothing corrupts as absolutely as absolute power". Corruption is heinous kind of injustice and a crime against the nation and the country. We need to abandon unjust laws, policies and practices that negate the principles of justice and fairness. Giving jobs and admission in schools and colleges on the basis of Sifarish ignoring merit is just another form of injustice. Quota system ignoring merit is something, which is against Islamic principles as well as the norms of justice and fair play. Forcing people to pay bribe to get their work done is the worst kind of injustice quite prevalent in our country.
“There are two, and only two things in modern society more hideous than crime namely, repressive justice” and “corrupt law enforcement.” Nations who negate the principles of justice and merit have to pay heavy price. Almost 50% of the victims of injustice become liars, cheat or hardened criminals or start suffering from depression. As a result of political polarization, there have been a very large number of cases in the city of Karachi, where innocent young men were falsely implicated by the police in arson and riots and tortured and even maimed. That triggered a chain of reprisals and terrorist activities. Political activists started killing policemen and informer and later feuds among political activists of different groups were common and now the sectarian feeling are being fanned which is the most dangerous from of injustice which one human being can inflict on another.
Pathetic Prison Conditions
In describing the conditions experienced by all major categories of inmates including criminal and other offenders, NGO’s looking after the interest of prisoners have been pointing out the problems of overcrowding, food, hygiene, outdoor time, visiting rights, and treatment by staff, among others concerns. The plight of women prisoners and juvenile delinquents continue to receive much criticism and it is said that young convicts become hardened criminals as a result of coming into contact with other prisoners. In the recent years the problems of overcrowding have worsened and often riots erupt besides protests and agitation.
The condition of lock up cells in different police station for temporary confinement of accused persons are worst as most of them are infested with bugs and filled with filth and nauseating smell. NGOs often raise voice against police brutalities and third degree methods and torture employed in investigation forcing accused persons to admit commission of crime under duress.
Police and Jail Reforms Badly Needed
Recent changes to make each Thana accountable to a committee of Union Council are not proving to be efficacious due to conflicts in authority and responsibility. In some instances even the orders of court are ignored with impunity or evaded on false pretexts.
People have little confidence in police and everywhere we see the security guards of private companies employed in different streets and residential areas of Karachi. Cases drag on for years and criminal are set free by taking bribe or due to faulty inquiries and lack of evidence.
For years the complaints of recruitment in police on the basis of graft and political whims rather than merit have been appearing in the press and going on deaf ears. Ministers and other high officials are said to have made millions by taking bribes.
It is about time the Federal, Provincial and Local Governments wake up and initiate much needed reforms in police and improve conditions in courts and laws to facilitate prompt and efficient administration of justice. While screening out the corrupt and incompetent elements is necessary there is also need for improving their salaries and perks besides training and modern equipment. We must employ educated people to write FIRs and maintain computerized records of criminals.