- Plan to move district courts to purpose-built buildings shelved by successive govts, faulty planning
The cramped, congested streets of the Islamabad District Courts in Sector F-8 are inundated with lawyers, litigants during the weekdays. Since its inception in 1980, the lower courts of the capital have been working out of a market.
The courts and the chambers freely mingle and are hard to tell apart. The situation has worsened greatly in past years as the space for new chambers has long gone and the Supreme Court had to intervene to halt the encroachment of nearby ground by the lawyers.
The plan to move the district courts out of its present location is yet to see the light of a day as repeated delaying tactics by AGPR, Planning Commission, Finance Division for the past four years has exhausted all attempts by the Ministry of Law and Justice to go ahead with the construction of the District Courts East, a 196.6 million project.
According to sources inside the Ministry of Law and Justice, the departments concerned have thwarted the re-appropriation of the funds during 2016-17 and 2017-18. The Islamabad Capital Territory has been divided in two territorial jurisdictions of the district courts (east) and the district courts (west) for judicial purposes.
Each division is headed by a district and sessions judge and a senior civil judge. While, a number of the additional district and sessions judge, civil judge-cum-judicial magistrates work under their supervision to adjudicate both civil and criminal matters. At present, both the division of the district courts are located in F-8 Markaz.
The government plans to relocate district courts of the west to the building that presently houses IHC in G-10/1. As in mid of the next year, the new building of the Islamabad High Court that is currently under-construction in Sector G-5, red zone will be completed at the cost of Rs 2.6 billion over an area of five acres.
Pakistan Today has learned that the district courts of the east will be moved to a new building that is yet to be constructed. The Ministry of Law and Justice have earmarked funds of Rs 190 million for land acquisition of 4.17 acre in G-11/4, a sector adjacent to the high court where the district courts of the west will be moved from F-8 Kecheri.
The district courts have territorial jurisdiction over both rural and urban areas of Islamabad and come under the Islamabad High Court. With rising population, migration from rural to urban areas and increase in both civil and criminal litigation, the surge in a number of cases in the capital’s district courts is on the rise.
It is pertinent to mention here that as of December 2017, more than 30 thousand cases of civil and criminal nature are pending before the district courts alone. For judicial purposes, all CDA sectors and areas adjacent come under the territorial jurisdiction of the district courts of the west, while rural and adjacent areas come under the territorial jurisdiction of the district courts of the east.
Presently, Islamabad is expanding on both its east and west side, as new sectors, towns, and localities are coming to life. Talking to Pakistan Today, Advocate Gulbaaz Mushtaq, who practices at F-8 courts, said that the increase in the number of lawyers, rampant urbanisation, and ballooning of population and skyrocketing litigation demand that the district courts be moved to purpose-built buildings.
“I’ve been practicing for the last eight years and have been hearing that the courts will be moved to new buildings since long. Our leadership has tried time and again but failed,” he said. “I guess ultimately it is about finances, which are not available,” he pointed out.