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150 years of Lahore High Court

Dr. Ikramul Haq

“The purpose of celebrating 150th anniversary is that we want to make people aware that the judiciary is active to protect their rights and that positive reforms are being introduced in the system”—Chief Justice of Lahore High Court

It is heartening to note that celebrating an historic event—150th anniversary of Lahore High Court—is not made a mere ritualistic exercise—the emphasis is on positive reforms in the judicial system. The words of Chief Justice testify that there exists a firm resolve to protect the rights of citizens and introduce fundamental structural reforms. This is highly encouraging manifestation of commitment of our higher judiciary for administration and dispensation of justice.

Year 2016 marks the 150th anniversary of the historical Lahore High Court, Lahore. This Court’s sesquicentennial year is a time to honor this institution and to commemorate the stalwarts of the legal fraternity who upheld the rule of law in the country by their untiring and steadfast commitment to their work. The sesquicentennial celebrations of the Lahore High Court would enable a common man to understand the past, present and future of judiciary in Punjab. By holding these celebrations, the judiciary in Punjab intends to reach out the masses to demonstrate that a committed and functional judiciary exists to minimize their miseries in pursuit of justice. This website is intended to keep track of the events happening during the sesquicentennial celebrations for general information of the masses.  Let’s wish a very happy anniversary to this beloved institution of ours— http://150.lhc.gov.pk/node/1

In a democratic set-up, the electoral process ensures representation of the people through elected members. The true representation, however, becomes possible by mean of impartial accountability of all through independent and competent judiciary. If elections lead to an authoritarian or corrupt rule and judiciary fails to check it, democracy will become meaningless. Favouritism, corruption, nepotism, despotism, repression, fascism, bigotry, totalitarianism, oppression, tyranny, denial of human rights, persecution of minorities, denial to justice and  curbs on media freedom—all antonyms to democracy—have no room in a people’s rule. Since rights of the citizens can only be ensured through an independent judiciary, dispensation of justice is a sine qua non for democracy.  

In his address, the Chief Justice emphasised on the preservation of history of the Lahore High Court for achieving a milestone “for dispensation of justice”. The Lahore High Court was established in 1866 as the Chief Court of the Punjab. In 1915, it was named High Court with jurisdictions over the provinces of Punjab and Delhi. In 1937, the strength of judges was increased from five to 15. On August 15, 1947 it was given the name of High Court of Lahore. On January 1, 1981, allied benches of Lahore High Court were established in Bahawalpur, Multan and Rawalpindi.

The message at the auspicious occasion of 150th anniversary of Lahore High Court is: in any society, administration and dispensation of justice should be the top most priority as without it ‘representative democracy’ cannot be established. The challenges faced by our judicial system for performing this vital task are daunting. In the courts, thousands of cases are pending, and the number is increasing with every passing day. Litigation, costly and time-consuming, is symptomatic of various socio-economic ills. There is no serious effort towards removing the causes of litigation—emphasis is on curing symptoms. Even by increasing the number of judges and courts manifold, the real malady will not go away, that is lack of socio-economic justice and issues of governance giving rise to unprecedented litigation.

The issue of reform in judicial system cannot be examined in isolation. It has to be seen in the perspective of overall outdated nature of our state institutions that are relics of colonial period. In view of changes taking place the world over, no serious effort has been made to make structural reform in the state organs, and judiciary is no exception.  Many suggestions for improvement of the judicial system are available. The glaring problems are lack of facilities, modern infrastructure, inordinate delays and litigant-prone society. The experts after diagnostic analyses of prevalent maladies in justice system have offered comprehensive reforms, but there is a lack of will for sincere implementation of the same, or for that matter, any reforms in out outdated state institutions.

It needs no debate that the judicial organ of the State has to act as custodian of the rights of the people under the Constitution and ensure rule of law in society. Rule of law embraces at least three principles. The first principle is that the law is supreme over officials of the government as well as private individuals, and thereby preclusive of the influence of arbitrary and political power. The second principle requires the creation and maintenance of an actual order of positive laws which preserves and embodies the more general principle of normative order. The third principle requires that the relationship between the state and the individual be regulated by law.

What we lack most in Pakistan is rule of law, and this is what should be addressed the most while celebrating 150th anniversary of High Court of the most populous province of the country. Administration and dispensation of justice in its true sense is still a far cry in Pakistan. Common people have no access to (costly) justice and those who can afford have to wait for years for orders. It is high time to raise a collective voice for meaningful judicial reforms that are vital for justice, progress, democracy and rule of law.


The writer is Advocate Supreme Court and Adjunct Faculty at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS). Email: ikram@huzaimaikram.com; Twitter: @drikramulhaq .

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