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ADDRESS BY HON'BLE MR. JUSTICE NASIR-UL-MULK, HCJP

Dated: 8-September-2014

My Brother Judges,
The Attorney General for Pakistan,
The Vice Chairman, Pakistan Bar Council,
The President, Supreme Court Bar Association,
Members of the Bar,
Ladies and Gentleman!
 

            We have gathered here today not just to uphold the tradition of holding a full Court Reference on the eve of the start of a new judicial year but also to review our performance during the past year, so that future policies of the Court can be designed to further justiceand protect rights of the people. This is an event where we renew our pledge and determination to uphold the Constitution, the responsibilities of the Judiciary under it and our unwavering resolve to protect,preserveand promote the fundamental rights of the people. Each year presents us with issues both old and new, which require collective efforts for their resolution.

Unfortunately, our resolve is beset with certain difficulties. Painful delays are faced by litigants due to the twin crisis of “backlog” and “delays” existing at the Supreme Court and other levels of the judicial hierarchy. My brother judges and I are critically aware of these problems and have tried to design various strategies to resolve them meaningfully. 

 Pursuant to the National Judicial Policy of 2009, we have evolved certain institutional checks and measures to ensure that delay in the provision of justice is reduced and eventually eliminated. Our measures have included creation of better institutional mechanisms to ensure timely and prompt disposal of cases as well as seeking co-operation from learned members and representatives of the bar for curtailing the practice of seeking unnecessary adjournments. At the International Judicial Conference, 2014, various stakeholders were gathered to discuss and debate the issue of ‘backlog’. We have been provided with valuable recommendations by the worthy members of the Conference, which are being deliberated upon in our meetings as we try to ensure that they materialize in the form of an effective judicial policy. 

This judicial year started with a carryover case balance of 19.932 cases, a total of 17, 491 new cases were instituted in the Supreme Court, out of which 13,872 have been disposed. However, due to the carry over backlog of cases from the previous years, the balance of pending cases before us is a colossal 22,089. Although, we have had a very high disposal rate, our efforts still require further vigor. 

I take this moment to assure you that we are cognizant of our responsibilities to reduce the backlog and are strenuously working towards that goal. An effort to eliminate the backlog of cases is already underway in this Court and such efforts shall be pursued in future with greater energy and dynamism. In the last six months we have already decided more than half of the criminal cases pending before this Court and we hope that by Summer of 2015 the backlog of criminal cases would be completely wiped out. A similar effort is being planned for tackling the backlog of Constitutional, Civil, Service, Revenue and other cases, the results of which would soon become apparent in the coming months. Work continued as usual during summer vacations till recently when all judges answered to the call of duty and the court started work at full strength a week early.

The backlog of cases in Peshawar and Quetta registries of the Supreme Court have piled up because no regular benches have been constituted there for quite some time. At Peshawar we had a carryover balance of 2171 cases and the net pendency at the end of the year is 2, 801. While at Quetta, the carry over balance was 641 and at the end of year 1, 027 cases remain pending. This pressing issue has been duly noted and we have planned to constitute benches in both Peshawar and Quetta registries shortly.

The role of the learned bar in preserving the Constitution and protecting the rights of the people is indispensable. I must reemphasize here that the bar should, as an integral part of the justice delivery mechanism, help the judiciary eliminate the scourge of backlog and pendency.

Ladies and Gentlemen!

This year, Chief Justice Mr. Justice Tasadduq Hussain Jillani, as he then was, passed a landmark judgment ( Suo Moto case 1 of 2014: PLD 2014 Supreme Court 699) vindicating the Constitutional Rights of the minorities in Pakistan. Justice Jillani has provided the judiciary and other institutions of the state with exquisitely defined rules for protecting the life and property of the minorities. Our Oath of Office as judges lays it down that we remain vigilant in protecting both the text and spirit of the Constitution, particularly the fundamental rights granted to the people of Pakistan regardless of race, caste, creed, religion or any social difference. The said judgment remains a testament to our commitment to the idea of justice and equality for all without any socially created encumbrance.

The primary obligation of every judge is to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution” which should be undertaken “without fear or favour, affection or ill-will.” No consideration or obligation can rise above the loyalty of the Judges to both the text   and spirit of the Constitution. Judges do not merely interpret the words of the constitution but also have the duty to preserve and protect it against any moves designed to defeat the scheme of the Constitution. It has been repeatedly emphasized by this Court that no person or institution can elevate themselves above the Constitution. Let me reemphasize, that Judiciary will not only retain its fidelity to the Constitution but will ensure that such fidelity is observed by all other functionaries of the state.

Progress, security and development cannot take place in the absence of safeguards provided in the Constitution. No society can survive in a Constitutional vacuum where fundamental rights of the people are not guaranteed or protected. Restrictions by the State functionaries on the freedoms of the people are open and subject to Judicial Review, which tests the restrictions so imposed upon the bar of constitutionality. However, under no circumstances should it be assumed that Rights granted under the Constitution are absolute as they remain subject to reasonable qualification and reasonable restrictions.

Rights and Duties are like two sides of the coin; one cannot exist without the other. It should be borne in mind that rights are to be exercised keeping in view the corresponding duties. It is the task of the judiciary to ensure that rights in a democratic society are balanced with counter-imposed duties. Judiciary has to play a progressive role in the creation of such a peaceful society by endeavoring to promote adherence to the Constitution.

As the final arbiter of the law, this Court is charged with ensuring for the people the promise of justice under the law and thereby, also functions as guardian and interpreter of the Constitution. The unique position of the Supreme Court stems, in large part, from the deep commitment of our nation to the Rule of Law and to a Constitutional government. Supreme Court has demonstrated its determination to preserve and protect our written Constitution, thereby protecting and promoting democracy and good governance in Pakistan. The Supreme Court and the judiciary of Pakistan shall forever endeavor to dispense justice to all, without being affected by any interest or extrinsic considerations.

A path which deviates from Constitutionalism regresses into an age of apathy, where no Rule of Law exists. As a democratic society, it is incumbent upon all citizens to collectively promote respect for and obedience to the Constitution. The various facets of justice such as economic, political and social are correlated to the progress of Constitutionalism in our country.

Ladies and Gentlemen!  

The past judicial year has bereft us of valuable presence of former Chief Justices of Pakistan Mr. Justice Iftikhar M. Chaudhary   and Mr. Justice Tasadduq Hussain Jillani   as well as Hon’ble Mr. Justice Khilji Arif Hussian. We are thankful to their legal acumen and services to the cause of justice and upholding of the Constitution. Their services shall be long remembered; their memory shall forever be alive through their contributions to the jurisprudence.

We have been joined over the past judicial year by Hon’ble Mr. Justice Mushir Alam, Hon’ble Mr. Justice Dost M. Khan, Hon’ble Mr. Justice Umar Ata Bandial and recently by Hon'ble Mr. Justice Qazi Faez Isa. They are a valuable addition to the strength of this court. 

Globalization has provided us with new avenues for learning through the paths taken by other countries in reaching the ideal of constitutionalism. We have tried to foster intellectual exchange of ideas with legal luminaries from around the world. International Judicial Conference of 2014 was one such endeavor in which we had representation from India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Afghanistan, United Kingdom, United States of America   and Turkey. Various issues probing the role of judiciary in protection of Human Rights, promotion of a culture of tolerance etc were discussed. It was encouraging to note a high level of participation from the participants of the Conference; ideas were floated, debated, criticized and accepted as resolutions of the house. The recommendations of the conference were duly considered by the National Judicial (Policy Making) Committee (NJPMC) in its subsequent meeting, where efforts are being undertaken to incorporate some recommendations proposed within the existing policy framework.

During the period under reference, six meetings of the National Judicial (Policy Making) Committee (NJPMC) were held. Apart from reviewing the performance of Courts, the Committee also considered various important issues related to administration of justice. Recommendations for improving the performance of justice sector institutions were made to ensure efficient and expeditious dispensation of justice.

We are endeavoring to deliver inexpensive, speedy and impartial justice to fulfill the trust reposed by people of Pakistan in the judiciary. Rule of Law can only prevail in our country, when judiciary remains faithful to the dictates of the Constitution. Let us renew our pledge to the same principles as we embark on the journey of another judicial year. Let this year be the time when we realize the aims and dreams set forth by us. Let this year be another milestone in the illustrious history of this court and our Country.

Thank you!

 
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