“Justice through wheels” hit the ruts in Khyber Pakhtunkwa

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: Photo By News Lens Pakistan / Izharullah
Mobile court bus : Photo By News Lens Pakistan / Izharullah

Peshawar: Justice at the doorsteps no more. Or at least that seems to be the case as the mobile courts set up by the provincial government in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, first ever in the history of Pakistan, have stalled, hitting the ruts in the legislation framework.

The much-vaunted mobile courts were established in 2013 by the coalition government in KP, led by Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehrek-e-Insaf (PTI). In a province, wracked by terrorism and violence, it was meant to bring relief to the overburdened courts by resolving public disputes of the public at their doorstep – quickly, without the hassles and delays of the court process.

The $15 million project was funded by United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the KP government. The initiative was originally advised by the former Awami National Party (ANP) – led collation government in KP before PTI came into power.

On the very first day of the inauguration, the mobile courts, set up inside special buses fitted with facilities required of a regular courtroom, disposed of nearly 30 cases. The courts were appreciated by the general public tired of a court system marred by delays. A five year old land dispute was the first case disposed of through the mobile courts in the Hayatabad township of Peshawar.

However, there is no legislation to operate the mobile courts as the bill moved regarding formulating one has been neglected by the provincial assembly.

The two drafts of the bill comprise Criminal Mobile Courts Act, 2012, and Civil Mobile Courts Act, 2012, were moved in the provincial assembly by the former ANP government in 2012. They have yet to be taken up by the PTI-led government in KP.

Maulana Shamsul Haq, former president of Peshawar Bar Association (PBA), told News Lens that the mobile courts operations have been suspended due to negligence of the current Chief Justice (CJ) of Peshawar High Court, Justice Mazhar Alam. He said the former CJ Dost Muhammad Khan took keen interest in the project.

He said that eight judges and 18 lawyers were trained for the said project. All of them worked as volunteers to provide legal services to the public. They, and others who facilitated the project, were called Friends of Mobile Courts.

Since the project was largely run through volunteer service, there was no problem of funding.

“There is no issue of funding for the project as the lawyers working on the project did not take any transport or daily allowance or salaries,” said Haq.

He said the mobile courts visited four areas –  Nowshera, Daudzai, Hayatabad in Peshawar and one unit on the premises of Peshawar High Court (PHC) –  and disposed of more than 100 cases in 2014. They became non-operational after the appointment of the new chief Justice of PHC, he said.

Lawyer Qazi Asraf, who worked as a mediator for the mobile courts told News Lens that the courts had received encouraging feedback from the public after resolution of their delayed disputes within hours. “People highly appreciated the mobile courts,” he said.

“A bill has been tabled in the provincial assembly to have legislation for mobile courts but it has yet to get attention from the government,” said Ashraf. “I don’t know why the government is neglecting the project.”

He explained that mobile courts are called “camp courts” and have a legal status in the judicial system. “Such courts provide relief to the public through quick and timely verdicts on their cases,” he said.

Arif Yousaf, a member of provincial assembly belonging to PTI and an advisor on legal affairs to Chief Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pervez Khattak, had forwarded  the legislative bills on mobile courts to the chief justice of Peshawar High Court for recommendations, five month ago.

“We have no hurdles in legalizing mobile courts through proper legislation but we are waiting for response and recommendations of the High Court as they are the stakeholders in the entire process of the mobile court project,” said Yousaf.

He said there was no issue of funding the project as it was supported by UNDP.

1 COMMENT

  1. Great initiative by the government.we are demanding to re-instate the project.nice work to highlight incompetency of the current government. Each and every para of the story is worthy.Good keep it up

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