–CJP says it was shocking incident, hopes values attached to legal and medical professions will be upheld
–Says judiciary is focused on reforms, will not go down ‘without a fight’
–Says continuous trial method delivers results instead of rollover system in which 40-50 cases run alongside
ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Asif Saeed Khosa on Saturday expressed dismay over the tragic incident at the Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC) wherein three people lost their lives due to an attack on the hospital by the lawyers and called for “introspection and self-accountability” in the wake of the tragedy.
“Three patients, including an elderly woman, died after doctors failed to provide them timely treatment and remained engaged in averting the assault,” the Punjab health minister said after the incident on Wednesday. After hours of continued violence, police had arrested dozens of lawyers and unblocked the road.
Speaking at a national conference on expeditious justice in Islamabad, the top judge said the incident was “tragic, unbelievable and shocking”, but it provided an opportunity to the legal community for “introspection and self-accountability”.
“Our hearts and our minds reach out to the victims and their families,” said Justice Khosa. “We hope and pray all concerned would like to uphold the values attached to the legal profession as well as the medical profession,” he said.
Justice Khosa called upon lawyers to make “every effort to keep the nobility of such professions intact”. He expressed hope that “better sense will prevail”, not just in this particular incident and its aftermath, but in the future as well.
The chief justice then said he would refrain from saying more on the subject as the matter is sub-judice before the Lahore High Court.
Speaking about reforms in the judicial system of the country, the chief justice said the apex court was making all-out efforts to reform the judicial system as “we will not go down without a fight”.
He said the biggest rebuke faced by the judiciary was what seemed like “the death of trial courts” in Pakistan. “There was no hope left. People were thinking of conceiving a different system altogether.” But, the judiciary remained “determined to do something to fix this”, he said.
He said that while the possibility of law reforms was there — with 15-20 commissions having been formed in the past on changing the law, the procedure and the court structure — all the recommendations were buried in books. “We said we won’t do it. We will look for ways from within the existing systems, laws, and procedures.
The chief justice said the court started its reforms process with fixing the criminal justice system and identified seven to eight factors in the process.
The reason for giving preference to the criminal trials was that “someone is languishing in jail, having lost his freedom, and someone else who has suffered a loss is awaiting justice. So we thought of how to improve such a system”, he added.
According to the CJP, a “rollover system” wherein 40-50 cases run alongside “did not seem right”. He said the continuous trial method delivers results anywhere in the world.
“They give you a date — even if it is a year-and-a-half later — but when it begins it is seen through in the few days and the judge will have no other case. When one case finishes, another begins,” he explained, adding that people would have to wait to a certain point in such a system and they would get the result in no time once the case commenced.
Another flaw in the justice system is in the treatment of the cases wherein the state was the complainant. “The state is the complainant so the responsibility of presenting the witnesses and evidence lies with the state. For some time now, this responsibility was delegated to the aggrieved party, who was told to bring forth witnesses,” he observed.
Justice Khosa said the complainant then went from pillar to post in search of witnesses but most of the time, none cooperated with him. “One comes and his complaint is recorded, then the case is adjourned for a month-and-a-half.”
He said the state must take ownership of cases and now [post-reforms] they “are the bring the witnesses”.
The chief justice said that in implementing the aforementioned changes, a “world of a difference” was seen.
He said other modalities, such as delays in challans being submitted, prisons not having the funds to transport prisoners and delays in writing out a judgment, were also attended.
Justice Khosa also spoke of proper scheduling having paved the way for “no more excuses” by senior judges to session judges.
He said the senior judges would previously say they were needed in the higher courts and session court cases would be adjourned as a result. “Now the lawyers are also genuinely focused on only certain cases on set dates,” he added.