Judiciary of Pakistan

The judiciary of Pakistan is a hierarchical system with two classes of courts: the superior (or higher) judiciary and the subordinate (or lower) judiciary. The superior judiciary is composed of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, the Federal Shariat Court and five High Courts, with the Supreme Court at the apex. There is a High Court for each of the four provinces as well as a High Court for the Islamabad Capital Territory. The Constitution of Pakistan entrusts the superior judiciary with the obligation to preserve, protect and defend the constitution. Neither the Supreme Court nor a High Court may exercise jurisdiction in relation to Tribal Areas, except otherwise provided for. The disputed regions of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit–Baltistan have separate court systems.

Besides Supreme Court of Pakistan, there are areas that are not constitutional parts of Pakistan till now. They are Gilgit Baltistan and AJK. As per constitution of Pakistan, these both areas are not a part of Pakistan, rather they are being governed by Government of Pakistan on interim basis. Though Gilgit Baltistan declared its independence from Dogra/Maharaja Kashmir on 1 November 1948, that is said to be the independence day of Gilgit Baltistan. Likewise, the authority of Constitution of Pakistan is not held there, though through Presidential ordinances, and PM packages, they are governed and given an interim authority delegated by Federal Government of Pakistan.

As the Supreme Court of Pakistan doesn’t have jurisdiction over Gilgit Baltistan, thus another form of APEX Court named Supreme Appellate Court for Gilgit Baltistan has been introduced, with designated powers as that of Supreme Court of Pakistan.

The subordinate judiciary consists of civil and criminal district courts, and numerous specialized courts covering banking, insurance, customs and excise, smuggling, drugs, terrorism, taxation, the environment, consumer protection, and corruption. The criminal courts were created under the Criminal Procedure Code 1898 and the civil courts were established by the West Pakistan Civil Court Ordinance 1962. There are also revenue courts that operate under the West Pakistan Land Revenue Act 1967. The government may also set up administrative courts and tribunals for exercising exclusive jurisdiction in specific matters

Superior judiciary

Supreme Court of Pakistan

The Supreme Court (SCOP), established in 1956 is the apex court in Pakistan’s judicial hierarchy, the final arbiter of legal and constitutional disputes. The court consists of a Chief Justice and sixteen other judges. There is also provision for appointment of acting judges as well as ad hoc judges in the court. It has a permanent seat in Islamabad as well as branch registries in Lahore, Peshawar, Quetta and Karachi.

It has a number of de jure powers which are outlined in the constitution, including appellate and constitutional jurisdiction, and suo moto power to try human rights matters. Through several periods of military rule and constitutional suspensions, the court has also established itself as a de facto check on military power. The Supreme Court Judges are supervised by the Supreme Judicial Council.

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”. 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 (hudud) 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 the subordinate judiciary. The court appoints its own staff and frames its own rules of procedure.

High courts

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”. 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 (hudud) 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 the subordinate judiciary. The court appoints its own staff and frames its own rules of procedure.

To Top