Proposing essential legal reforms
Ibefore would like to present an open reso lution for some important reforms
Parliament. A house that stood for the rule of law whenever dictators or usurpers tried to abridge the Constitution or infringe upon the fundamental rights of our fellow citizens. I feel honoured to be a member of the legal profession. I acknowledge and admire the sacrifices for the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary. I look up to your wisdom and invite your gracious attention to following issues. The training of our young lawyers, underpinning their professionalism and performance is not adequately prioritized by our bar associations, our law colleges and universities and our government. Let us resolve to play an active role in the capacity building of young lawyers via continuous legal education, a national law clerkship programme and more extensive pro bono legal aid work. A young lawyer in Pakistan faces a dilemma: either to start Email:firstname.lastname@example.org practicing without proper onthe-job professional training, or face long-term financial constraints working with senior members of the bar. There are only a few law firm jobs that pay a young lawyer enough to raise a family. So the bar needs to be concerned about younger members. Our young members are petted as heroes in any movement for the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary. However, during normal times, they are deprived of proper mentoring and professional support. So I urge senior members of the bar to support our younger members and channel their energy into the mainstream of the profession.
It may be appreciated that many young lawyers do not have flagship degrees but they are backbone of this profession. Grassroots lawyers in Pakistan have ability and desire to make things happen. So let us focus on capacity building of young lawyers through continuous legal education including organised short courses in bar councils, judicial academies and law schools, as well as their engagement with Supreme Court, High Courts, District Courts, Attorney General and Advocate General’s office under a national law clerkship program. Employing young lawyers with senior members in research, drafting and arguments on a division-of-work/fee basis will help them and profession at large.
Moreover, the bar councils may amend Pakistan Bar Council Legal Education Rules, 1978, and Pakistan Bar Council Free Legal Aid Scheme, 1998, and generate special funds to put these ideas into practice seeking additional support from government and international organisations. We suffer from the perception that we have a weak judicial system. Let us resolve that we will strengthen our judicial system by making the appointment processes within the higher judiciary more transparent via providing a doubleended constitutional mechanism for the nomination of judges first by High Courts and then through the Judicial Commission of Pakistan.
The World Justice Project (WJP) Rule of Law Index 2015 ranks Pakistan at 98 out of 102 countries factoring the state of corruption, order and security, fundamental rights, civil justice and the criminal justice system, etc. In many countries, judicial appointments are a collaborative process without any concerns about sacrificing independence of judiciary. If we strengthen our higher judiciary, it would eventually influence performance of the district judiciary as well. It is proposed that the judges in both the higher and the lower courts may be provided training in case management, etc. Furthermore, trained staff facilitating in the management and disposal of cases should be provided to the judges. We have a good judiciary, however, on balance, our judicial system seems to fail in the steering of an ever-increasing workload. So it is high time to learn from other jurisdictions and use these lessons in reforming our judicial system. — The writer is a practicing lawyer based in Lahore.