Propos­ing es­sen­tial le­gal re­forms

Pakistan Observer - - OPINION - M Yasir Kayani

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 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.

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