In Pakistan, Juctice on Your Door Step
Pakistan's Mobile Court. (Photo: Malik Ayub Sumbal)
Pakistan recently launched a mobile court in the city of Peshawar.
This courtroom-on-wheels will mediate small civil and minor criminal cases as well as cases involving children.
The aim is to try and cut down the backlog of cases in ordinary courts.
In Pakistan, cases can drag on for decades with over 1 million pending nationally.
Gulab Jan’s husband killed their daughter.
She has filed a lawsuit to seek justice to this mobile court in Charsadda city.
“It was too expensive for us to travel to the court but now thanks to this mobile court, justice runs to our doorstep. It’s a great initiative by the newly-elected government of Pakistan Therik-i-Insaf in the province.”
The mobile court was set up by the high court of the Khyber Pakthunkhwa province, operating in Peshawar and its suburbs.
Inside the bus, there’s a small courtroom, judge’s chamber, driver’s cabin and waiting section.
Sardar Ahmed Khan is the judge on board. He sits behind a desk, like in a real court room.
He’s now dealing with a land dispute – the most common case in the province.
“It’s the first time that the mobile courts are working in Pakistan for the quick and speedy justice to the poor. It’s their basic right and need. Now we have to make this successful without commitment and struggle. We can serve and open more access to justice.”
On the first day, the mobile court handed down decisions in 28 cases which had been pending in the ordinary courts for years.
One of them was a land dispute filed by daily wage labourer Jahagir Khan.
He filed his case four years ago in an ordinary court but nothing had happened.
His hearing in the mobile court took less than one hour.
“The mobile court process for hearing the cases is exactly the same as the normal court. But the basic difference is that now you don’t have to go far for justice, but it comes towards you!It's a big change which the people have been demanding.”
Officials hope that mobile court can offer an alternative to the Taliban courts and traditional all-male gathering of elders called jirga.
These also offer quick decisions... but the sentences are brutal and include gang-rape, stoning and being buried alive.
Judge Sardar Ahmed Khan says security is a concern.
“Obviously there are threats from Taliban and other extremists groups in the province. But we can’t stop this initiative which we have taken for the people. We have to provide the justice at any cost.”
A total of 8 judges and 18 lawyers have been trained to settle cases in the mobile courts.
The government hopes to launch 11 more buses this year with funding from the United Nations.