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Supreme Court Hits All-Time High with Over 57,000 Pending Cases

The backlog of pending cases in the Supreme Court of Pakistan has reached a historic high of over 57,000, marking a significant increase of nearly 4,500 cases in just the past year. A considerable portion of these cases, totaling 3,353 appeals, comes from incarcerated individuals awaiting judgments eagerly.

As of April 15, the apex court was dealing with over 10,000 pending criminal cases, while the number of appeals awaiting formal hearings against decisions made by High Courts has surged to a daunting 31,000.

This surge in pending cases stands in stark contrast to the judicial situation just two years prior. A report from 2022 had already raised alarms, revealing that both high and lower courts were inundated with a backlog of 2.144 million cases. Despite the resolution of over 4.12 lakh cases in 2021, an overwhelming 4.06 million new cases entered the system.

The complexities of the legal system have significantly contributed to this mounting challenge. Last year, the Supreme Court, Federal Sharia Court, and five High Courts collectively resolved 229,822 cases while introducing 241,250 new cases into the system.

The backlog in the High Courts alone had reached 389,549 cases by December 31, 2021, putting immense strain on the judicial machinery.

Similarly, the district judiciary faced its own set of challenges. Despite resolving over 38.72 lakh cases, the system was inundated with 38.22 lakh new cases in 2021, leaving 17.54 lakh cases pending before lower courts by the year’s end.

The Federal Sharia Court, established in 1980 to address appeals in cases of rape and unnatural crimes, found its workload relatively light initially, with only 157 cases in the last fifteen years. However, it too is grappling with a growing caseload, with 178 cases pending at the start of 2021 and 118 new cases instituted during the year.

Regional High Courts also encountered their share of challenges. While the Lahore High Court disposed of a commendable 149,362 cases in 2021, the influx of 148,436 new cases left the backlog at 187,255 by year-end.

Similarly, the Sindh High Court managed to dispose of over 31,000 cases but faced over 84,000 pending cases by year-end.

Efforts to address this backlog have been ongoing, with the establishment of the National Judicial Policy in 2009 aimed at expediting case disposal and enhancing public trust in the justice system. However, with the backlog continuing to swell, there is an urgent need for comprehensive reforms to ensure timely justice for all.

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