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Karachi

July 13, 2018

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‘For overburdened courts, alternative dispute resolution only solution’

With the high number of pending cases and overall caseload facing the judiciary at all levels across Pakistan, court-annexed alternative dispute resolution (ADR) has become a dire need, said Justice (retd) Nasir Aslam Zahid on Thursday.

He said that at present more than 1.8 million cases are pending before the superior and subordinate judiciary of the country, with over 93,000 cases pending in the province of Sindh.

Justice Zahid, currently serving as chairperson of the Legal Aid Office and Legal Aid Society, made these observations during an introductory session with representatives of the Malir Bar Association.

The session was organised by the Legal Aid Society in collaboration with the Malir Bar Association to discuss the need and use of ADR mechanisms, with the focus on court-annexed mediation.

Justice Zahid said judges are overburdened, which leads to delayed dispensation of justice, adding that in principle, one judge may hold regular hearings of a maximum of four cases in a day, so more judges need to be inducted at all levels.

He said that until a reasonable balance is reached between the population and the available number of judges, the best way to cope with this problem is effective and efficient utilisation of court-annexed ADR mechanisms.

In the backdrop of overburdened courts, he recommended effective utilisation of the Small Claims and Minor Offences Courts Ordinance 2002 and the subsequent Salis mechanism.

Justice Zahid said the Sindh High Court had notified 270 Salis committee members back in 2015 under this law, which governs the cases of claims of less than Rs100,000 and offences that had a prescribed maximum penalty of under three years.

Lamenting that this ADR mechanism remains unutilised in Sindh, he appealed to the legal fraternity to own this mechanism so the people can be provided swift justice and the increasing burden on courts can be reduced.

He said efforts made by the Legal Aid Society regarding the use of ADR mechanisms are also in line with the National Judicial Policy that asks for earnest application of the Small Claims and Minor Offences Courts Ordinance 2002.

Omar Bashir Maniar, who is a consultant with the Legal Aid Society, briefed the session on existing ADR mechanisms in the legal regime of the country.

He said that major ADR mechanisms in Pakistan are grounded mainly in six laws: the Arbitration Act 1940, the Small Claims and Minor Offences Courts Ordinance 2002, the Muslim Family Laws Ordinance 1961, the Family Courts Act 1964, Section 89(A) of the Civil Procedure Codes and Section 345 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

Malir Bar Association President Sharfuddin Jamali appreciated the efforts of the Legal Aid Society in creating discourse on ADR. He said lawyers are also of the view that small claims and minor offences should be resolved by ADR mechanisms rather than through protracted trial in courts.

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