Lecturer, Department of Law,
The Islamia
University of Bahawalpur,


Justice delayed is justice denied" is a legal maxim meaning that if legal redress is available for a party that has suffered some injury, but is not approaching in a timely fashion, it is effectively the same as having no redress at all. This principle is the basis for the right to a speedy trial and similar rights which are meant to expedite the legal system, because it is unfair for the injured party to have to sustain the injury with little hope for resolution. The phrase has become a rallying cry for legal reformers who view courts or governments as acting too slowly in resolving legal issues either because the existing system is too complex or overburdened, or because the issue or party in question lacks political favor.[1]

In this work the reader will come to know the outcomes of delay in providence of justice that is ultimately resulting in discontent among masses about the judicial system. Like it is an important saying that “justice delayed is justice denied” and if a justice is denied to a common man, the ultimate result is taking the law in hand by the common man to get himself remedied against the wrong inflicted upon him. The very mechanism of our judicial system that evolves around trail court in first instance and than the first court of appeal, High Courts, and after it the matter is raised to the second court of appeal, the Supreme court of Pakistan and this is not the end once again the matter of simplest form are bounced to the stage of revision. Generally it takes a man his whole life to get the justice through this arrangement of judicial system. The tedious system of lower courts and a number of other factors like the ‘professionalism’ of lawyers and the court men make the attainment of justice approximately impossible as the justice should be at its proper time. The numbers of cases are bearing testimony where the justice seeker was awarded a remedy that is priceless as compared to the time one needed it. So this tradition is creating distrust among the common men that for seeking ‘speedy justice’ they can strive by hook or by crook. Now it is the time to seek the solution and introduce a speedy mechanism to solve the matters of simple form.

Judicial system of Pakistan, an overview

Now we will try to take a look in accordance with the forums in the judicial system a case goes and is decided. The important thing over here is to see the long structure and its tedious working that makes the attainment of justice a myth. 

Subordinate Judiciary

In Pakistan, the most lower court available for the providence of justice are known as lower courts those are also known as courts of first instance or subordinate judiciary in the civil or criminal matters. The subordinate judiciary may be broadly divided into two classes; one, civil courts, established under the West Pakistan Civil Court Ordinance 1962 and two, criminal courts, created under the Criminal Procedure Code 1898. In addition, there also exist other courts and tribunals of civil and criminal nature, created under special laws and enactments. Their jurisdiction, powers and functions are specified in the statutes creating them. The decisions and judgments of such special courts are assailable before the superior judiciary (High Court and/or Supreme Court) through revision or appeal. The civil courts may be classified as follows:

Civil & Criminal Courts

The provincial governments appoint the civil and criminal judges and their terms and conditions are regulated under the provincial civil servants acts/rules. The High Court, however, exercises administrative control over such courts. The civil courts consist of District Judge, Additional District Judge and Civil Judge Class I, II & III. Similarly, the criminal courts comprise of Session Judge, Additional Session Judge and Judicial Magistrate Class I, II & III. Law fixes their pecuniary and territorial jurisdictions. Appeal against the decision of civil courts lies to the District Judge and to the High Court, if the value of the suit exceeds specified amount. Similarly, in keeping with the quantum of penalty, appeals against criminal courts lie to Session Judge or High Court.[2] The research shows that in the subordinate judiciary, Punjab had 1,225,879 pending cases, Sindh 144,942, the NWFP 187,441, while Balochistan had 7,664 case pending.[3]

High Courts

Each province has a High Court headed by a Chief Justice and other judges. The strength of Lahore High Court is fixed at 50, High Court of Sindh at 28, Peshawar High Court at 16 and High Court of Baluchistan at 9.[4] The Chief Justice is appointed by the President in consultation with the Chief Justice of Pakistan and other judges, in consultation with the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Governor of the Province and the Chief Justice of the concerned High Court. The Court exercises original jurisdiction in the enforcement of Fundamental Rights and appellate jurisdiction in judgments/orders of the subordinate courts in civil and criminal matters. A large number of cases are pending in various High Courts. In the Lahore High Court, a total of 75,195 cases, in the High Court of Sindh, 27,291 cases, in Peshawar High Court, 13,610 cases and in the High Court of Balochistan, 2445 cases were pending on 1st January 2007.

Supreme Court

It is the highest court in the land having original, appellate and advisory jurisdiction and is headed by the Chief Justice and other judges. The total number of judges is 17. A person with 5 years experience as a Judge of a High Court or 15 years standing as an advocate of a High Court is eligible to be appointed as Judge of the Supreme Court.[5] Besides exercising jurisdiction in appellate and advisory jurisdiction, the Supreme Court also entertains the cases of Fundamental Rights under Article 184(3). On 1st February, 2007, a total of 10914 cases were pending in the Supreme Court. Approximately 13000 – 16000 cases (both petitions and appeals) are annually filed in the Court. Besides, around 30,000 applications/letters are annually received under Article 184(3) of the Constitution and processed by the Court. Obviously, the Court has a heavy workload. It raises the question as to whether the Court can devote adequate time and serious attention to important cases, involving the interpretation of law and the Constitution; ensure their timely disposal through sound reasoning and quality judgment, as is expected of an apex Court. There is a need, thus, to ponder whether or not the jurisdiction of the Court should be restricted to important and serious cases.[6]

Federal Shariat Court

Federal Shariat Court did come into being in 1980. It consists of eight (8) including the Chief Justice (to be appointed by the President) judges four of which are the persons who are qualified to become the judges of High Court and the three from Ulema who are well versed in Islamic Jurisprudence and theology[7]. The court has the original jurisdiction to examine and decide any question of law whether or not it is repugnant to the injunctions of Islam. The court has also the power to review its own judgments and can call the record of any criminal court, relating to Hudood law[8], to satisfy itself to its legality. On 1st January 2007, a total of 3316 cases (3016 appeals/revisions and 300 petitions) were pending before the Court.

Factors involved in providence of justice

Overburdened judges and court staff



Supreme Court of Pakistan

Federal Shariat Court

Lahore High Court

High Court of Sindh

Peshawar High Court

Balochistan High Court

Chief Justice & Judges







Administrative Staff















Distt & Sessions Judges/ Addl Distt & Session Judge/ Senior Civil Judge/ Civil Judge







Administrative Staff














Afore-mentioned table is taken from the official site of Supreme Court of Pakistan

Current population of Pakistan is approximately 180 million and the numbers of judges to dispense justice are 129 in superior courts i.e. in Supreme Court, High Courts and Federal Shariat court and still some of the judges are to be appointed.  In case of lower judiciary the Punjab, a province having approximately 9 million of people possesses 939 District and session, additional district and session and all other senior or civil judges, Sind 508, NWFP 277 and Baluchistan 197 judges in subordinate judiciary.

Police system in criminal cases

Numerous efforts have been done to re streamline the sluggish system of police in the country but still it needs redress. It is duty of police to prevent ad detect the crime but due to a number of factors it is a dream to be achieved. According to Criminal Procedure Code, the police after the occurrence of crime are responsible to submit its report in the form of Challan to the court in a specific time[9]. But it is evident in numerous cases that police in its own vested interest of under influence of influential people keeps on delay tactics.

Lack of education

A report released recently by the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC) gives a gloomy picture of education in Pakistan. About 40 per cent of the country’s children of school-going age cannot access education, and the World Economic Forum’s latest Global Competitiveness Report ranks Pakistan 117 out of 134 countries in terms of quality primary education, says the SPARC report. It adds that 20 per cent of the country lacks basic educational facilities.[10]

Uneducated person is like a straw in the air at the stake of circumstances and can be misled by anyone. The one educated is well informed than an uneducated. Awareness of rights and duties should be communicated to the children from the grass root as the first step to justice is being aware of rights and duties.

Delay tactics of Lawyers

It is evident by the practice of the lawyers to delay the case especially in civil matters where it is most likely to delay it for the sake of their own interest and to keep their work going on. There are number of cases on the record where the case was delayed for the unnecessary time. Thanks to the national judicial policy which aims to ensure speedy justice, eliminate corruption and ensure independence of the judiciary. Under the heading of corruption it says that Action should be initiated against those judicial officers/staff that carry persistent reputation of being corrupt or have their life style beyond ostensible means and income.[11]

Academic structure

The influx of lawyer is every year in burden upon the judicial system as the intake is greater than the need. In Pakistan, it is very easy to have a law degree from remote areas reading specific guide books containing questions and answers of some of general questions and the student can easily get through the exam. Legal education, in Pakistan needs to be streamlined and some concrete steps should be taken to attain the international standers of legal education. The criteria to obtain a legal practitioner code should be revised. Pakistan Bar Council along with provincial bar councils should play its vigilant role in assurance of qualified lot in the profession of justice and it should not be fore granted for all.

Delay in providence of justice and its implications on common men

“A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life's roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life's highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring”. Martin louther

Newspapers in Pakistan are full of the news of events where the common men tried their own way to get the remedy as it is general principle of jurisprudence that ubi jus ibi remedium that means that for every wrong there is remedy. Now it is the responsibility of the state to provide the remedy for the wrongs inflicted on its citizen and if the state is unable to do it than the common men will try to get “justice” for them by one way or another and it will certainly lead to the chaos and hegemony and ultimately it will lead to the collapse of the entire system of state.

According to a vernacular newspaper 1.7 million cases are pending in superior and lower judiciary and while the courts are over burdened by the cases as the total number of judges is 1,750 and more upon this they are not facilitated with the staff they needed to tackle the cases[12].

Criminal cases are generally delayed because of late submission of final police investigation reports, non-production of the accused, failure of witnesses to turn up and record testimony, inefficient process service, an impractical cause list and the dilatory tactics of lawyers. Sometimes, witnesses who turn up in court to record evidence leave unexamined. Without eliminating the root causes of delay, it will be difficult for judges to conclude trials within the given timeline and they are likely to resort to Section 249-A or 265-K of the Criminal Procedure Code, acquitting the accused instead of taking the trial further. This outcome is most likely in cases where the evidence against the accused is weak.

The need for the reformation in the judicial system is the need of the time and National Judicial Policy 2010 is an effective document to take the judicial system of Pakistan on strong patterns but it will need both administrative and bar and bench co-operation.



[1].      Available on “”, last accessed on 6th of March, 2010

[2].      Hussain, Faqir, Dr. “The Judicial System of Pakistan” available on accessed on Monday, 05, March, 2010

[3].      Masood, Rehman,” Measures suggested to prevent delay in murder cases”,  Daily Times, Tuesday, May 05, 2009

[4].      Hussain, Faqir, Dr. (n. 2)

[5].      Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973, Article 177

[6].      Hussain, Faqir, Dr. (n. 2)

[7].      Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973, Article 203- C

[8].      Hudood are those laws wherein the punishment is fixed either by the Quran or the Sunnah and court has no discretion like Tazir cases. 

[9].      Code of Criminal Procedure, Section 173

[10].    Editorial, Dawn, Friday, 29th May, 2009

[11].    National Judicial policy 2009, available on” accessed on Monday, 15th March, 2010

[12].    Abdul, Shaikh, Khaliq, “Is speedy justice possible?”, Dawn, Wednesday, 24 June, 2009