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Pakistan Justice System – Access to Justice

Pakistan Justice System

Supreme Court

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.


High Courts

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:

  1. Lahore High Court – for the province of Punjab
  2. Sindh High Court – for the province of Sindh
  3. Peshawar High Court – for the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
  4. Balochistan High Court – for the province of Balochistan
  5. Islamabad High Court – for the Federal Capital city of Islamabad

The High Court is an appellate court for all civil and criminal matters and also high court have original civil and original criminal jurisdiction in the respective province.


Federal Shariat Court of Pakistan

The Federal Shariat Court of Pakistan was established in 1980 to scrutinize all Pakistani laws and determine if they conform to Islamic values “as laid down in the Quran and the Sunnah”.[6] If a law is found to be ‘repugnant’, the Court notifies the relevant government, specifying the reasons for its decision. The court also has appellate jurisdiction over penalties (hudood) arising under Islamic law, although these decisions can be reviewed by the Shariat Appellate Bench of the Supreme Court. The decisions of the court are binding on the High Courts as well as subordinate judiciary. The court appoints its own staff and frames its own rules of procedure.


District & Sessions Courts

District courts exist in every district of each province, and have civil and criminal jurisdiction. In each District Headquarters, there are numerous Additional District & Session Judges who usually preside the courts. District & Sessions Judge has executive and judicial power all over the district under his jurisdiction. The Sessions court is also a trial court for heinous offences such as Murder, Rape, Haraba offences (armed robbery where specific amount of gold and cash is involved), and is also appellate court for summary conviction offences and civil suits of lesser value. Each Town and city now has a court of Additional District & Sessions judge, which possess the equal authority over, under its jurisdiction. When hearing criminal cases, it is called the Sessions Court, and when it hears civil cases, the District Court. Executive matters are brought before the relevant District & Sessions Judge.


Family Courts

The West Pakistan Family Courts Act 1964 governs the jurisdiction of Family Courts. These courts have exclusive jurisdiction over matters relating to personal status. Appeals from the Family Courts lie with the High Court, where the Family Court is presided by a District Judge, an Additional District Judge, or a person notified by the Government to be the rank and status of a District Judge or an Additional District Judge and to the District Court, in any other case, where family court is presided by family judge /civil judge. Every town and city or Tehsil has court of family judge. In some areas, where it is only Family Court but in most areas Civil Judge Courts have been granted the powers of Family Court Judges. According to section 17 of the Family Court Act, 1964, the provisions of C.P.C. (Civil Procedure Code) and Qanun-e-Shahdat Order (Evidence Law) are not applicable over to Family Court and the same are allowed forming or regulating its own procedure to decide case expeditiously, properly and in the best interest and convenience of lady litigants.


Special Tribunals and Boards

There are numerous special tribunals such as;

  1. Banking Courts
  2. Custom Courts
  3. Drug Courts
  4. Federal Services Tribunal
  5. Provincial Services Tribunals (one for each province)
  6. Income Tax Tribunals
  7. Anti-Corruption Courts
  8. Anti-Terrorism Courts
  9. Labour Courts
  10. Labour Appellate Tribunal
  11. Environmental Courts
  12. Board of Revenue.
  13. Special Magistrate courts
  14. Control of Narcotic Substances (Special Courts)
  15. Consumer Courts.

Almost all judges of above mentioned courts and tribunals except last one, are of District & sessions Judges or of having same qualifications. Besides, there exist revenue courts, operating under the West Pakistan Land Revenue Act 1967. The revenue courts may be classified as the Board of Revenue, the Commissioner, the Collector, the Assistant Collector of the First Grade and Second Grade. The provincial government that exercises administrative control over them appoints such officers. Law prescribes their powers and functions.

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