Pakistan’s judicial system stems directly from the system that was used in British India as on independence in 1947, and the Government of India Act 1935 was retained as a provisional Constitution. As a consequence, the legal and judicial system of the British period continued with due adaptations and modifications, where necessary, to suit the requirements of the new Republic.
Supreme Court of Pakistan
Supreme Court is the apex court in Pakistan’s court system and is the final arbiter of all legal and constitutional matters. The permanent seat of the Supreme Court is in Islamabad, while it has Branch Registries in all four provincial capitals i.e. Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar and Quetta. To visit the website of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, please click here.
High Courts are second tier of courts in Pakistan, and there is one High Court in each province of Pakistan. There is also a High Court in the federal capital Islamabad. Therefore, following are the five High Courts:
- Lahore High Court – for the province of Punjab
- Sindh High Court – for the province of Sindh
- Peshawar High Court – for the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
- Balochistan High Court – for the province of Balochistan
- Islamabad High Court – for the federal capital city of Islamabad
The High Court is an appellate court for all civil and criminal matters in the respective province.
Civil Justice System and Civil Courts
The procedure of civil justice system in Pakistan is governed and regulated by the Code of Civil Procedure 1908. This law is enforced through the civil courts. Civil courts in Pakistan are established by the respective province under different laws titled the Civil Courts Ordinance 1962, which recognizes the following main classes of civil courts:
- The court of District Judge;
- The court of Additional District Judge; and
- The court of Civil Judge.
All civil courts in Pakistan are subordinate to the High Court and subject to the general superintendence and control of the High Court; the District Judge has control over all civil courts within the local limits of his jurisdiction. The High Court is not a civil court.
District Judges are appointed by the Provincial Government in consultation with the High Court. There is a District Judge for each district in the province. The court of the District Judge is the highest court of original civil jurisdiction in the district.
Additional District Judges are appointed by the Provincial Government and they perform such functions of the District Judge as the District Judge may assign.
The power to appoint Civil Judges, to fix the number of Civil Judges and to make rules prescribing qualifications for recruitment of persons as Civil Judges vests in the Provincial Government. However, the power to post a Civil Judge to district, the power to determine the local limits of the jurisdiction of the Civil Judge and the general power to fix the pecuniary limits of the jurisdiction of the Civil Judge vest in the relevant High Court. The High Courts have, for the purpose of determining the pecuniary limits of the jurisdiction to be exercised by Civil Judges, placed the Civil Judges in three distinct classes i.e. Civil Judge 1st Class, Civil Judge 2nd Class, and Civil Judge 3rd Class.
Criminal Justice System and Criminal Courts
The police and the criminal courts are the most visible features of criminal justice system in Pakistan. While the police investigates offences and sends the offenders to stand trials before the courts, the courts’ function is to try the offences, get at the truth of the crime and in case of proof of crime to punish the offender in accordance with law.
The criminal procedure system in Pakistan is laid down in the Code of Criminal Procedure 1898, whereas the substantive law about definition of a crime and its punishment is found in the Pakistan Penal Code 1860. The Pakistan Penal Code contains the law which determines whether an act or omission is a crime, and the Code of Criminal Procedure is about the procedure by which the criminal law is enforced. The law of evidence is the part of the law of the procedure with the help of which criminal offences are proved. However, there are other special laws as well which lay down different procedural and substantive criminal laws in Pakistan.
The main criminal courts in Pakistan are as follows:
- The High Courts
- The Courts of Session
- The Courts of Magistrate
High Courts are constitutional courts established by the Constitution of Pakistan; however they also exercise powers as criminal courts.
A court of session is established by the relevant Provincial Government for every geographical division. A court of session consists of a Sessions Judge and Additional Sessions Judge.
Magistrates are of three different categories i.e. Magistrate of the 1st Class, Magistrate of the 2nd Class, and Magistrate of the 3rd Class. All magistrates are subordinate to the Sessions Judge of their respective division.
Special Courts, Tribunals and Boards
There are also many special tribunals, courts and boards in Pakistan which are created through different laws for specific areas of laws. Examples include the following:
- Family Courts
- Juvenile Courts
- Anti-Narcotics Courts
- Banking Courts
- Income Tax Tribunals
- Consumer Courts
- Services Tribunals
- Anti-Corruption Courts
- Anti-Terrorism Courts
- Board of Revenues
- Labor Relations Courts