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A Critical Examination of Judicial Accountability in Pakistan

A Critical Examination of Judicial Accountability in Pakistan


By Sarah Nazir

Pakistan has a complicated judicial landscape, where applicants have to spend long years to seek decisions on their cases. Sometime it happens that simple open and shut type cases despite availability of sufficient evidence, continue to linger for protracted spans of time. This weakness in the criminal justice system warrants its immediate fixing to ensure that apt and quick justice is delivered to all, in spirit of law and constitution. The situation becomes more intrigue, once criminal acts, undertaken by so called custodians of justice and their wards, are blatantly swept under the carpet. One such incident took place in Lahore in 2022, once the drunken girl of a judge killed two innocent civilians by ramming the official jeep on them. Not only those poor souls were killed, due to no fault of them but their families were also coerced by the goons, sent by the son of the same judge. Later on, the judge himself misused his appointment and position to influence the case negatively, both in the court as well as during the process of investigation by Police. This incident underscores the gravity of elite capture in Pakistan, where esteem judges seem to think themselves and their families, to be well above the law. This case exposes the rampant corruption, tendency for abuse of authority, manipulation of justice and exploitation of criminal investigation and justice system, seeped in to the ranks and files of judiciary. The sad incident also highlights the delicate balance of power and responsibility within the state institution that is charged with ensuring and maintaining justice to the all, in the society. It also shows the critical need for widespread consideration. It is said that fist always rots from the top so if system has to be revamped, structural reforms and corrections will have to be incorporated from the top.


The Incident


On a fateful night in 2022, a girl who was apparently under the influence of alcohol, fatally drove over two young men, while driving an official Lahore High Court Prado, sparking considerable outrage in the media. The victims perished quickly, and the girl fled the scene, leaving the official car behind. Despite her efforts to avoid culpability, the CCTV evidence led to her identification and subsequent development of the case.


Undesired and Illegal Interference


What followed the sad incident was a worrisome unfolding of situation, which demonstrated the abuse of judicial power. The esteem Judge of Lahore High Court at that time, allegedly put tremendous pressure on law enforcement officials, to close the probe inconsequentially. Using his position, the esteem judge attempted to coercing the Police into changing the case information to clear his daughter of all charges.
To make matters worse, Judge’s son approached the victims' families, escorted by a group of intimidating persons, and demanded that they dismissed their legal petition against the girl. As a blatant lie, it was claimed that another lady was driving the vehicle at the time of the event, and the judge’s daughter was only a passenger. This apparent attempt to mislead and intimidate the victims' relatives further exacerbated the situation.


Systematic Erasure of Evidence


Unfortunately, corruption permeates every aspect of the legal system in the country. As they rise high in ranks, officials from judiciary pretend to be above the case. In this particular case, the esteem Judge allegedly stage managed the loss of the official Prado car from Police custody, replacing it with another car to conceal the evidence. Such deliberate suppression of critical evidence shows, how judges in the judiciary can manipulate the system to their benefit.
The investigating officer, charged with bringing justice, also confronted strong opposition. When he visited the Lahore High Court, the Registrar advised him that questioning the judge was not an option to him. In a surprising turn of events, the case file was confiscated, and the officer was held in the court's basement for many days. Such blatant and audacious act of arresting a law Enforcement Officer exemplifies how far the judiciary went to protect one of its own.


The Pursuit of Justice


Despite the insurmountable barriers, the father of one of the slain young men has maintained his unwavering search for justice. In a news conference, he has recently expressed his dissatisfaction with the lack of media coverage and the apparent indifference of the authorities. His despair has reached to a point that he has vowed to light himself on fire in front of Supreme Court of Pakistan, a heartbreaking and desperate attempt to attract attention to the injustice his family has faced.
This man's condition raises serious concerns about the role of the media as well as the Courts in Pakistan. Why has the media been mainly silent on this issue? The threat of facing contempt of court penalties, appears to have suffocated the press, preventing it from fulfilling its role as democratic watchdog. This silence not only feeds the cycle of injustice but also undermines public faith in the media and the judiciary.


Broader Implications


This tragedy surrounding a Judge of Supreme Court of Pakistan is not an isolated instance, but rather a sign of larger systemic failure in Pakistan's ailing judiciary. In this case, the institution that should protect justice has become a facilitator of corruption and impunity. Such episodes highlight the urgent need for substantial judicial reform to restore trust in the system.


The Need for Judicial Reforms


To overcome the underlying difficulties, Pakistan's judiciary must undergo considerable reforms. Transparency and accountability must become the foundations of the judicial system. This includes enforcing strict procedures to avoid abuse of power and holding all persons, regardless of status, responsible for their actions. Furthermore, there is an urgent need for an independent monitoring agency to oversee court conduct and probe corruption charges. This body should have the capacity to operate independently, without influence or interference, to ensure that justice is served fairly and impartially.


The Role of the Media


The media also has an important influence on this equation. As the fourth pillar of democracy, the press must report courageously on topics of public concern, holding those in authority also accountable for their bad actions. Fear of retaliation should not discourage the journalists from seeking the truth. To achieve, it remains critical to strengthen journalist safeguards and ensure press freedom.


Conclusion


The story of Supreme Court Judge and his culprit daughter serves as a stark reminder of the critical need for change in Pakistan's judiciary. It emphasizes the perils of uncontrolled authority and the significance of responsibility in sustaining the values of justice. Pakistan must face these challenges straight on to move ahead. The court should not be a haven for the strong, but rather a source of hope for the downtrodden. Only by openness, accountability, and a firm commitment to justice will Pakistan be able to reestablish faith in its judiciary. The country deserves a court that stands firm in the face of corruption, relentless in its pursuit of truth and justice. Only then can the balances of justice be balanced, and the genuine spirit of the law preserved.

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