Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Gulzar Ahmed on Monday said that about 12,968 cases had been decided, including 6,797 Civil Petitions, 1,916 Civil Appeals, 459 Civil Review Petitions, 2,625 Criminal Petitions, 681 Criminal Appeals, 37 Criminal Review Petitions and 100 Criminal Original Petitions during the previous judicial year 2020-21. Addressing the opening ceremony of the new judicial year of the Supreme Court, the Chief Justice said that about 45,644 cases were pending at the beginning of previous judicial year while about 20,910 fresh cases were instituted. He said that one of the main reasons identified for the backlog of cases was adjournments given to advocates who were unable to reach Islamabad due to various reasons, such as, personal emergencies, or engagements at their own stations. The video-link facility has played an active and key part in ensuring the smooth operation of our judicial functions throughout the Pandemic and has prevented unnecessary adjournments. Thus, it has greatly saved both time and money of the litigants. For the judiciary, it has been monumental in easing the burden of backlog of cases in the previous judicial year, and we hope the result will be the same for the upcoming judicial year, he added. He said that the Human Rights Cell, established in the Supreme Court, had continued to function. However, very few new cases were registered and an effort was made to regularly hear in Court the pending cases and pass appropriate orders to protect the fundamental rights of the people. The Model Courts had been established throughout Pakistan to conclude criminal as well as civil cases in few weeks rather than years and during the previous judicial year, although the COVID-19 has hampered the progress of Model Courts, however, during the period from September 14, 2020 to September 06, 2021, 171 Model Criminal Trial Courts decided 14,190 murder and narcotic cases, 149 Model Trial Magistrate Courts decided 20,032 cases and 117 Model Civil Appellate Courts decided 21472 cases. In this way, total Modal Courts decided huge number of 55,694 cases, he added. He said that the relationship between the Bar and the Bench was an everlasting one. In the expeditious delivery of justice, the bar associations and councils and the judiciary were vital partners for the attainment of this objective. Yet, severe waves of COVID-19 and social distancing took away a lot of opportunities of engagement between the two. However, easing of the COVID waves and increasing vaccinations allowed us some opportunities, he added. He said that the previous judicial year, just like the one before that, was not the average judicial year by any means. This year had been one of the most challenging in history, not only for the Pakistani judicial system but also throughout the world owing to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic. He said that the National Judicial Automation Unit (NJAU) was also established and this Committee, under the Chairmanship of now Retired Justice Mushir Alam launched the National Online Dashboard (NOD) and the E-Case Information Management System (e-CIMS) which was a huge step in bridging the gap between this technological advancement and a lack of adequate resources. The vision behind the working of the Judicial Automation Committee had enhanced the facilitation of litigants and the public at large in an efficient, effective and equitable manner, he added. The chief justice said that the Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan had constituted the District Legal Empowerment Committees (DLECs) to provide free legal aid to deserving litigants who were otherwise unable to obtain professional legal advice due to financial hardships. Until the end of Judicial Year, funds of Rs.64.2 million have been released to 124 DLECs constituted in four provinces and federal capital. Eleven new DLECS have been constituted in Kurram, North Waziristan, South Waziristan, Orakzai and Kolai Pallas. Until now free legal aid has been provided to thousands of deserving litigants across the country. He said that the Federal Judicial Academy (FJA) had been working for bringing about improvements in justice system. During the last year, as many as 31 training courses, workshops, seminars and internship programmes were conducted by the Academy. Besides, training of Judges of District Judiciary, first batch of Assistant Superintendents of Police was trained under the “Professional Exchange Programme” undertaken in collaboration with the National Police Academy. Further, first batch of Prosecutors from the Federal Investigation Agency was trained besides training of Judges on Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing in collaboration with National FATF Secretariat. Special course on “Islamic Banking and Finance” for Judges of the Banking Courts and special course on International Labour Standards and Labour Disputes Resolution was conducted for Labour Court Judges in collaboration with International Labour Organization/international experts. Under the “Legal Internship Programme”, first batch of internees from public sector universities was trained. A Memorandum of Understanding was also signed with UN Women for capacity building aimed at ensuring gender responsive justice. “I would like to thank the backbone of our justice system, the lawyers and members of various bar associations and bar councils. Despite COVID-19 being the biggest challenge, we have all managed to wade through these trying waters and be united in our cause of administration of justice and dispensation of justice to the citizens of Pakistan. I hope and pray that the new judicial year, and the coming years bring about an end to the Pandemic and relive the world from its clutches so that we can all go back to times as normal. I am hopeful that together, we can strive to secure the Fundamental Rights of the citizens of Pakistan,” he concluded.