Judicial Reforms: Balancing The Scales Beyond The Gavel

"One of the major controversies surrounding the judicial system in Pakistan is the appointment of judges, which is marked by the dominating role of the Chief Justice in the Judicial Commission"

Judicial Reforms: Balancing The Scales Beyond The Gavel

In the face of multifaceted economic challenges, Pakistan grapples with issues such as political instability, budget deficits, loss-making state enterprises, and a disproportionately large defence budget. Amid these daunting challenges, one vital yet often undervalued component that significantly influences a nation's economic landscape is its judiciary. An independent and efficient judiciary is paramount for economic growth in any nation. While laws set the framework, it is the judiciary that breathes life into the legal system. A robust judiciary not only upholds justice but also serves as the bedrock for economic growth, ensuring the fair resolution of disputes, protection of property rights, and the enforcement of contracts – all essential pillars for a thriving and stable economy.

It is crucial to understand that the dynamics between the executive and the judiciary are complex and vary from one country to another. However, in a global perspective, several nations have recently faced challenges related to the independence and functioning of their judiciary. In a recent example Israel before the conflict with Hamas encountered significant protests due to a controversial bill aimed at curbing the powers of the Supreme Court. These protests grew to substantial scales, even involving military personnel from different forces, who were threatened not to report to their offices. Thus this issue at that time became the existential threat to the state. On the other hand, in Turkey, there have been concerns about the executive's attempts to exert power over the judiciary. President Erdogan after failed coup attempt tried to exert his power and dismissed thousands of judges and prosecutors, replacing them with junior officials, which sparked protests. This raised questions about the independence and integrity of the judiciary.

Even India has recently faced challenges where controversial amendments have been perceived as an attempt by the executive to undermine the independence of the judiciary. However, India's Supreme Court has played a climacteric role in upholding the principles of judicial independence, periodically striking down such attempts.

However, in Pakistan, a distinct dynamic characterises the relationship between the judiciary and the executive. Judicial activism, on certain occasions, has been perceived as a hindrance to the executive's performance. Numerous instances have arisen where the judiciary's actions have sparked concerns regarding the potential undermining of democratic principles. These concerns are particularly pronounced when the judiciary is criticised for intervening unnecessarily in the government's domain, leading to the removal and imposition of death sentences in cases that are considered frivolous.

A notable example is the Reko Diq case, where the judiciary's involvement was met with significant scrutiny. The judiciary's decision in this case not only raised questions about its jurisdiction but also incurred an immense economic cost for the state. Critics argue that such interventions, especially when perceived as unwarranted or excessive, can disrupt the balance of power between the judiciary and the elected executive. This imbalance not only has immediate implications for democratic principles, but also carries long-term economic consequences.

The perceived economic costs of judicial interventions, such as those witnessed in the Reko Diq case, highlight the delicate equilibrium that must be maintained between the judiciary and the executive. the balance of power and independence between the judiciary and the executive remains a critical issue, and finding the right equilibrium is an ongoing challenge.

One of the major controversies surrounding the judicial system in Pakistan is the appointment of judges, which is marked by the dominating role of the Chief Justice in the Judicial Commission. This influence has raised concerns about potential biases and political interference in the selection of judges. As a result, doubts persist about the impartiality and integrity of the judiciary. Whereas outdated and cumbersome procedures within Pakistan's judicial system have been a persistent issue, resulting in delays and inefficiencies. These antiquated methods not only impede the swift resolution of cases but also erode confidence in the legal framework. Such erosion discourages businesses and investors from engaging in economic activities that could otherwise flourish with an efficient judicial system, hindering economic growth.

In a significant move towards addressing these pressing issues, the newly appointed Chief Justice of Pakistan recently convened discussions with the leadership of the bar. This engagement aimed to explore solutions for the expeditious dispensation of justice and transparent, merit-based appointments of judges. The practical outcome of that meeting is yet to be seen.

To strengthen the judiciary and bolster economic prospects in Pakistan, several fundamental steps must be taken, which include a transparent and merit-based process of appointing judges ensuring that judges are selected based on their qualifications and integrity and not on their affiliations with different quarters. Besides this, modernisation and streamlining the judicial system with updated procedures, along with embracing technology, can expedite cases, reduce the backlog of around 2 million and enhance the efficiency of the system. However, upholding the Supreme Court Practice and Procedure Act by the full bench of the Supreme Court was a positive omen in that direction. 

Furthermore, educating the public on the significance of an independent judiciary and their fundamental rights along with encouraging civic engagement are pivotal to safeguarding judicial independence and improving its efficiency.

In a nutshell, a judiciary that operates independently and effectively is vital for ensuring economic stability and fostering growth. It is the responsibility of the governing body to maintain a balanced distribution of power among its institutions to uphold the principles of justice and the rule of law. The impartiality of the judiciary isn't solely about fairness; it forms the groundwork for economic advancement and stability.