Black coats pile on broken households’ misery


Strikes by lawyers on every alternate day, appearance of junior and untrained lawyers in court to plead cases and frequent transfer of judges has turned the matters of guardianship into a time-consuming exercise in guardian courts of Lahore.
There are more than ten thousand cases of guardianship pending in three guardian courts of Lahore while some cases have been pending for the last six years. Pakistan Today learnt during a survey that 10,289 such cases were waiting for their disposal in guardian courts and over eight hundred new cases per month were coming to the same courts.
The main reason for unnecessary delays in disposal of guardianship matters is that in most cases junior lawyers appear in court to plead the cases, some dealing in their first case thus lacking experience to finish the case quickly.
On the other hand, strikes by lawyers on every alternate day and frequently transfer of judges are other reasons for unnecessary delays in the disposal of cases pending in guardian courts, adding misery to the already estranged couples and their children.
Rahim Bhatti, a frequent visitor to the guardian court with regards to the guardianship case of his son filed by his former wife Bushra Alam, said that the court heard his case once a month, as he had to take leave from his office in Islamabad. He complained of insufficient security measures and seating arrangements at the court and a lack of drinking water.
Muneeba Hanif of Lahore has been a complainant against Muhammad Ilyas since August 2007 in a custody case. She said she had to appear in court along with her baby, adding that her case had been heard by four judges during the last two years but to no avail.
Muhammad Fakhir, a three-year old baby, has been regular visitor to the guardian court since June 2008, along with his mother and maternal uncle. His mother is a complainant in custody of a minor against her former husband. She complained that frequent transfer of judges was causing unnecessary delays in disposal of her case. She added, “A judge must hold the same court for at least 5 years.” Five judges had heard her case during the past one and a half years and on every change of judge, the hearing would start from the beginning, she said.
Awais Ahmad, 6, has been attending the court for the last three years along with his father Waheed Ahmad. After his mother’s accidental death, his maternal grandfather had applied for his custodianship as he thought Waheed could not guard Awais properly. This delay of justice is not entirely at the end of litigants. There are some other factors as well. Lawyer Mian Zafar Iqbal Kalaunari said despite the laws being pro-women, females faced a lot of difficulties in courts – cheap language was used against them in the courts and their piety and character were questioned. He said, “This blame game has to be condemned.”
Kalaunari said a computerised system was also needed to maintain a complete record of all the cases. For him, if a case was executed in the guardian courts, there was no follow-up by the court. Judges announce long delays in giving hearing dates to the litigants and this leads to inefficient and slow delivery of justice. The lawyer suggested that the number of courts must be increased to match the growing population.. Commenting on the National Judicial Policy (NJP) 2009, he said that the civil judges were more responsible as they usually did not attend courts in full strength. They had to show full commitment to every case and proper checks and balances at the High Court were also required.