The people of Pakistan see entering into litigation and courts much as one would enter Dante Alighieri’s Gates of Hell, elaborated as “Abandon all hope ye who enter here!” More than often, liticaphobia (fear of lawsuits) and undelivered justice is linked with the incompetent judicial system of Pakistan. This perception is substantiated with the phrases like; “the grandson hears the verdict of the lawsuit filed by grandfather,” “don’t get involved in litigation, your savings will be lost, your house will be sold,” “no matter how much time and money you may spend on a legal case, in the end it will conclude with an agreement among disputing parties” etc. These are the lines that dismay people and prevent them from pursuing justice through legal platforms. And they also motivate them to seek revenge by themselves: that in itself poses a threat to the law-and-order situation and damages the trust reposed upon the judiciary. Interestingly, the Court Fees Act 1870 provides relief to litigants in the terms of economy. Then where does the actual distress lie in delivering the justice? Why is litigation always seen as an expense?
The judiciary is seen as the most corrupt of all public institutions as various national and international surveys, academia, and media conclude, which is followed by countless reformation ideas without actually taking account of what other factors besides the judiciary itself are affecting the state of justice in Pakistan.
In order to shake the already-made perception about the judiciary, there is a need to identify two things. First is that the judiciary and judicature are two different issues. Second is that the hierarchy of the criminal justice system of Pakistan is widely misunderstood and commentary often ignores the first PPs, the police and the prosecution; hence, directly blames mainly the courts for injustice in the country.
The judiciary consists of courts and judges while judicature refers to the administration of justice. The criminal investigation process conducted by the police and prosecution directly impacts the judicial decision-making of a case. Corruption, on the other hand, in the Health Department, Police, Investigative Branches, Forensic Labs and other federal-provincial departments is none too secretive: that doubles the sufferings of the citizens. Separately, all these departments are affecting the lives of the public at large by practicing the abuse of power on a daily basis. However, mutual malpractice of these departments has an ability to cascade into a problem for a citizen’s life for eternity.
For instance, false FIRs are the base of an unjust trial and verdict. Victimising the rivals and innocents with fabricated FIRs is an old trick, however, it is impossible without the malpractice and liaison of certain departments. To illustrate with an example, let’s take the case of a fake criminal complaint. Corruption in the health department or the medical practice is widely known. So, fake medical legal certificates (MLCs) are easily issued upon the payment of bribes, references and other illegal favours, accompanied by the registration of FIR by police after prima facie evidence of MLC, and next the bribed prosecution against an innocent citizen – all of which proves a labyrinthine nightmare for the accused. Vice versa, it puts the phrase “either bribe or else get sentenced” into practice.
From the judicial proceedings to finalising the decision, the judges are obliged to act by books not by whims and fancies. No matter how much the judges feel sympathetic towards an accused innocent, they just cannot violate the conferred powers granted to them by the constitution. Unquestionably, fake documents – including fake MLCs and prosecution procedure that is composed of four stages of investigation – can be challenged repeatedly in the court, but before it may reach a conclusion, it completely strips the irreproachable citizen of their time, money, future, prestige and sense of morality; casting a shadow over the trial, verdict, and justice system entirely.
Justice is not merely a term or a procedure. It is a virtue of the soul that brings spiritual blessedness and social balance by punishing an oppressor and restoring the honour of an oppressed. No society can evolve without just practices; hence this quest is inevitable. If we want justice to be delivered as sharp and acute as the Perseus’s Harp, there is a need to ensure corruption-free departments besides the judiciary that can pave the way for a fair trial and verdict.