Chief Justice, Anwar Zaheer Jamali on Saturday advised the critics to avoid unnecessary criticism over the judiciary, saying the main fault was with other factors prolonging litigations at courts. Speaking at a seminar on “Mediation: Improving Business Climate & Promoting Communal Harmony,” organised by the National Centre of Dispute Resolution (NCDR) held at a local hotel, he said that unnecessary criticism on the judicial system was inappropriate.
There is no fault in the existing judicial system, which is rather well-tested, he told the seminar participants and said that external factors associated with the very system were responsible for justice delays and prolonging litigations. “There is no doubt that litigation before the formal courts have their challenges and drawbacks,” Chief Justice said, adding that “in the circumstances, it may be more convenient and cost-effective for litigants to be provided with ‘alternative’ albeit complementary dispute resolution options”.
He said the lack of timely dispute resolution often contributed to escalating the minor issues into grave conflicts. “I wholeheartedly endorse the President, Justice Saiduzzaman Siddiqui’s view that citizens should be given a variety of options to resolve their disputes in a way that best addresses their interests and goals,” he said, adding that “I would therefore urge greater support and investment for both the formal justice sector and ADR to strengthen the rule of law in Pakistan”.
President NCDR, former Chief Justice, Saiduzzaman Siddiqui at the inaugural session said, “I am confident that with deliberations in today’s seminar, all participants will have a better understanding of mediation as a regime for resolution of disputes, ensuring thereby improvement in the business climate of the country and communal harmony”. He said that there were some of the issues that the NCDR had identified which needed a consideration including existing capacity of judges, lawyers and rule of judicial and legal system with reference to mediation and those pertaining to the alternative dispute resolution (ADR).
The former Chief Justice said that the NCDR had suggested for the inclusion of appropriate provisions in agreements providing for mediation between the parties in the event of a dispute to make an attempt to resolve such issues within a stipulated time through mediation. “Doubts were expressed about the constitutionality of such provisions in agreements which were considered to be contrary to Article 6 of the ECHR,” he said.
According to the “Doing Business Report, which the World Bank has published, Pakistan is placed in Enforcement of Contracts at 161 out of 189, he said, adding that “besides these concerns a foreign investor while opting to invest in Pakistan in my view would need to be satisfied about: The continuity in the trade policies of the government; The law and order situation in the country ensuring personal safety of the investor and his assets; and Court system responsive to the corporate needs”.
The substantive laws of the country are now required to establish a culture based on resolution of disputes through mediation and conciliation, he said, adding that “this will ultimately not only benefit the public, but will reduce the burden of courts and will develop and bring about a change in the existing culture of litigation prevalent in Pakistan”.
Justice Saiduzzaman Siddiqui said, “Today, we are also launching the Arbitration Council under NCDR to provide Arbitration Services in commercial cases in line with international standards. I may mention that the NCDR negotiated a MoU with Istanbul Chamber of Commerce which has since been signed”.
Governor State Bank of Pakistan, Ashraf Watra said, “The NCDR is a great concept” adding that all such systems working elsewhere in the world were functioning effectively in several markets. He said the ADR had needed publicity, a supportive law and execution of its decisions with making them binding to succeed.
National legislators of PTI’s, Dr Arif Alvi and MQM’s Farooq Sattar expressed their views on the ADR, saying that the system needed improvement to serve general public and resolve national, local and family issues effectively without delays and less costly. Vice President NCDR, Anwar Mansoor Khan said that the ADR was an alternative method of arbitration to reduce judicial pressure, which had also grown as a requirement of the corporate sector. He said the ADR was providing a solution to the problems of a middle class society and resolving disputes between rich and the poor.
He said the techniques applied in the ADR were extra-judicial to help solve problems of banking, property rights, insurance, etc. He said the ADR could not be invoked unless both disputing parties were willing to go for the alternative solution. The country needs a structured and institutionalised ADR system, he said.
Barrister Zafarullah Khan said that all religions were advocating for mediation to solve public disputes to establish social harmony. He said the history of the informal justice system was centuries old. He also cited Qura’nic verses to support his arguments. He spoke at the seminar on behalf of Federal Finance Minister, Ishaq Dar.
He said that Islam had always called for arbitration even in solving family matters. He said that the existing legal system was no more workable in the country. He said that the traditional justice system like jirga or panchayat should be improved but its abusive factors should be abolished. The alternative system needs a legal cover, he added. Lawyer, arbitrator & mediator, Billiet & Co, Philippe Billiet, Expert Mediator & Trainer, Chief Operating Officer, NCDR, Ebrahim Saifuddin and Willem Meuwissen highlighted the benefits of ADR in term of cost and time saving. The Acting Chief Justice of Sindh High Court, Sindh Senior Education Minister, Nisar Khuhro and PML-F’s Jam Madad Ali Khan were also present during the seminar, besides DG Rangers, Major General Bilal Akbar.