Backlog in SC decreased during last seven months

Despite five vacant posts of Supreme Court judges, pendency in the apex court has decreased as it disposed of 2724 cases during the last seven months.

The backlog which stood at 53,964 on January 31, 2022, has been now reduced to 51240.

The current strength of the honourable judges in the top court is 12 against the sanctioned strength of 17 as no new judge has been appointed since February.

According to the latest report, out of 1691 cases fixed for hearing, a total of 1261 cases were decided from August 22 to September 2. Likewise, it has been noticed that the disposal rate is higher than the institution of cases for the last 15 days.

It may be mentioned here that under the tenure of Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial, who otherwise faces simmering controversies over the matter of elevations of high court judges to the top court, the pendency of cases has been significantly reduced.

This stands out in contrast to the tenures of his predecessors under whom the backlog has only piled up.

Amid the chorus of lawyers calling into question the composition of benches to hear high-profile cases, the CJP has earned distinctions for maintaining discipline in the benches to hear ordinary cases. As part of his efforts to clear the backlog, the CJP also notably refused to avail his summer vacation this year.

‘The wheels of justice’

'The wheels of justice turn slowly but they grind exceedingly fine,' goes the proverbial expression. The maxim remains a terse narration of the pendency of cases – which remains to be the biggest challenge for the apex court, steadily mounting for the last two decades.

According to the SC annual report 2021, 17,370 cases were pending in 2002 and now the number has reached 51,240, meaning that around 200 per cent of cases increased in the Supreme Court.

From December 31, 2013, onwards, the backlog in the top court increased from 20,517 to 53,560 on December 31 2021. The annual increase in pendency ranged between 1087 in the year 2014 to 7,203 in the year 2021.

However, there has been a glimmer of hope as the last seven months have seen a decline in the pending cases for the first time since December 31, 2013.

Currently, half of the pending cases are of civil nature while 2900 jail petitions are awaiting a verdict in the apex court.

Meanwhile, the pendency of criminal cases was reduced during the tenure of former CJP Asif Saeed Khosa.

However, the data shows that the pendency of criminal cases is also increasing.

A lawyer, who appears on behalf of the state to plead jail petitions, told The Express Tribune that heirs of prisoners are approaching them for early fixation of jail petitions. But it was learnt that a period of almost three to four years is required to fix the jail petitions in the apex court.

Meanwhile, the new judicial year is going to commence on September 12 and CJP Bandial is expected to discuss the court’s performance in his tenure during the full court reference. He may as well reveal a fresh plan of action to reduce the pendency next year.

It is learnt that the two-day 9th Judicial Conference 2022 is going to be held from September 23 to 23 at the SC premises.

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