Budgetary Constraints as Third Angle to Delayed Justice: Reviewing Peace-building Efforts through Judicial System

Authors: Raza Ullah Shah

Budgetary Constraints as Third Angle to Delayed Justice: Reviewing Peace-building Efforts through Judicial System


The civil justice system is the bedrock of our democratic freedoms; it serves as a beacon for disadvantaged communities, a pillar for businesses, a shield for domestic violence survivors, and a safety net for children and seniors. In Pakistan however it is pragmatic that the justice system is incapable of attaining its objectives due to huge amount of delay in resolving the disputes. This is a quantitative endeavor for finding out the role of budget as a cause of delay in conflict resolution wherein a survey was conducted through a specifically designed questionnaire; distributed among three groups of respondents selected from six districts of KP province. Respondents revealed that the major budgetary causes of delay were inadequate number of judges, insufficient number of ministerial staff in courts, insufficient use of modern technologies, inadequate number of process servers, outdated land registration system and nominal salaries of the lower staff.

Keywords: Budget; Delay in justice; Judges; Land registration; Information Technology; Training of judges


It is a basic principle of the independence of judiciary, unanimously sanctioned by the General Assembly of the United Nations that each member state is duty bound to provide sufficient funds to facilitate the judiciary in the proper performance of its duties (Irshad, 2011: 195). The state would not be allowed to reject the constitutional right of quick dispute resolution to a party merely on the ground of inadequacy of the funds required to meet the monitory needs of the courts while improving the administration of justice for guaranteeing quick dispensation of justice (Rehn, et al. 2010: 4).

Courts with more resources have been found to be better capable of managing their workload (Banfield & Anderson, 1968). Singapore achieved 39% decline in the number of pending cases in 1993 by increasing the budget significantly in 1991. When panama increased its capital budget in 1992-93, its number of pending cases had decreased by 70% and the number of cases disposed had increased 39% the next year (Asian Foundation, 1999: 65).

Regardless of the fact that the lack of resources is frequently put forward as a cause for longer disposition times (Eshuis 2007: 28), the justice system is a low budget priority in Pakistan (Asian Foundation, 1999: 65). The reason might be that the dispensation of justice is considered a welfare service by the state instead of a duty towards its citizens (Law & Justice Commission of Pakistan 1997: 12; Hussain 2007: 28). The subordinate judiciary is chronically under-funded, woefully short of trained staff and adequate facilities, and forced to work in squalid conditions, which is a legacy of generations of state neglect (Asian Development Bank, 1999: 2; International Crisis Group, 2004: 18). All the provincial governments as well as the federal government in Pakistan have historically allocated less than 1% of their respective budgets to the judiciary. This underlines historical low-prioritization and neglect of the justice sector (Muhammad, 2011: 137; Siddique 2011: 34).

The objective of the present study is to establish the role of insufficient budget for the administration of justice as against the problem of delay in justice in lower courts of Pakistan. For this purpose, a questionnaire survey was conducted in six districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. The questionnaire was distributed among the lawyers, judges and litigants in these districts. This study will pinpoint several problems bred by the dearth of funds and their level of responsibility for the problem of delay in justice in order of importance.

Literature review

The main reason for the problem of delay in justice is an imbalance between the demand and supply of court services for dispute resolution (Kakalik, Selvin, and Pace, 1990: iv). In other words, delay is conceived as a problem of too many cases chasing too few judges (Zeisel, Kalven, and Buchholz, 1959: 44; Resnik, 1982: 398; Hamid, 2007: 32). The unpredictable increase in the volume of litigation with the passage of each day and failure to make proportionate increase in the number of judges to deal with these cases has exacerbated the situation and consequently in most of the places, pending files requiring the services of five judicial officers is entrusted to one judicial officer (Khan, 2000: 257; Nawaz, 2004: 14; Hussain, 2007: 28).


Sattar (2012:525) questions the delivery of justice to ordinary citizen owing to the fact that judges at all levels of the judicial hierarchy are stretched beyond capacity. A civil judge in Punjab hears 150 cases per day on average. This makes an average hearing of 3,600 cases per month making it impossible for the overloaded judiciary to dispense justice properly and timely (Khan, 2004: 38). The judges would be comfortable in granting adjournments, as it would give them a siege of relief in the present tense workload situation in the courts. Inadequate judicial budget is the root cause of insufficient number of judges in the courts (Velayos, 2004: 315). 


Some empirical studies have proved that adding judges does not always contribute significantly to solving the problem of delay (Martin, et al., 1981: 33). However, this may not apply to Pakistan. The study of Martin et al (1983) was conducted in countries that have a better judge-to-citizen ratio than that of Pakistan. In Pakistan, the ratio is one judge for every 140,000 citizens; which is among the worst in the world (Asian Foundation, 1999: 64).

Further, the cases cannot be taken without fair, honest and responsible functioning of the ministerial staff of the court; they are behind the curtain and can play havoc in dispensation of justice. They can delay a case in many ways (Nahaki, 2011: 183). The ministerial staff of the courts are overworked, underpaid and inadequately trained, which might make them an easy prey to temptation (Law & Justice Commission of Pakistan, 2003: 158, 1997: 15; Irshad, 2011: 195).


Process servers are overloaded with huge amount of work, paid very less remuneration, having no transport facilities to serve the processes. They also receive little or no training at all (Tariq, 2005: 88). Therefore, the defendants who are interested in delaying the case will be able in lieu of some gratification to persuade the process server to make an incorrect report of his being not available. On other occasions, a plaintiff gets an ex-parte stay order or other such order prejudicial to the defendant and is interested in not getting service affected upon the opposite side with a view to prolonging the operation of the ex-parte order (Law commission of India, 1978: 14).


Apart from increasing prosperity outside courtroom, the frequency and complexity of civil litigation has increased owing to complexity of dealings between people, leading to increased level of reliance on technological advancements (Heintz, 2002: 568; Withers, 2000: 1). The most sophisticated of the new technology is the Information Technology (IT), making information infinitely more available and facilitating communication across the globe. Administering justice is also an activity that is made up of having information available, communicating about it, and producing new information (Reiling, 2009: 15). IT is believed to be a solution for the problem of delay in justice (Chaudhry, 2011: 105). Based on their experience with the courts using information technology being more productive in resolving cases, the judges in Latin America also consider information technology an important element of delay reduction (Asian Foundation, 1999: 60). A study of courts in Argentina and Venezuela found that the use of computerized word processing have a strong positive effect on the case disposal rate of a court (Buscaglia and Ulen, 1997: 290). The introduction of computers can transform the working of the whole system. It will help grouping of cases involving same question of law, establishing a data base connecting all the courts, to maintain statistics of cases filed, disposed off and pending as well as of cases which are ready for hearing and cases which are required to be disposed expeditiously and easy preparation of a daily case list (Marrijuddin, 1996: 13; Burbank, 2004). However, inefficient use of information technology facilities is the biggest hurdle in the adoption of modern case flow management techniques; and paves way for the corrupt practices of the ministerial staff of the court (Shah, 2005: 80; Siddique, 2011: 3).


There are over a million pending cases of land dispute in judiciary (Nasir and Ali, 2010: 11; UK Border Agency, 2013: 23). Researchers have found the reason in inaccurate and/or fraudulent land records, inaccurate boundary allocation, and multiple registrations to the same land. This make reliability of land rights a Herculian task for the judiciary. Further, the Patwari (revenue official at lower level) is often perceived as having exacerbated disputes due to his monopoly over land and revenue documents giving him a free hand to indulge in rampant extortion (Khan and Khan, 2003: 19). 


An organization is very much dependent for its success on the quality and management of its human resources (Iqbal, 2006: 11). Presently the judges and other court personnel do not use their time effectively, and are incapable of the proper organization and administration of the courts. In this kind of situation even if court resources were increased, the problem of delay might still persist (Jones, 1965: 200; Hunter 1975; Sulelan and Spencer, 1967: 275). In order to have proficient judiciary it is needed to train the judges, and the lower staff of the courts (Rehn, et al., 2010: 30).


Lawyers don't become good judges by the wave of a magic wand; not even the best lawyers. Going from adversary (lawyer) to adjudicator means changing one's attitude, learning and using new skills and, in some cases, severing old ties (Catlin, 1982: 253). Judicial education and training is the most effective, and perhaps an indispensable, means of enhancing the fair and efficient administration of justice (Armytage, 1993: 582). In fact the increasing workload, enlarging courts’ sizes, growing complexity of cases, dispute resolution process and the unprecedented technological advancements have made the continuing judicial education a basic necessity (Hudzik, 1989). Presently judicial education is an integral ingredient of judicial life in most of the countries of the world (Nicholson, 1993:425). The objectives of judicial education and training, besides others, is to improve the judges efficiency and effectiveness of the entire justice system (Armytage, 2004: 46). Continuing judicial education is now believed to be indispensable for the efficiency of the justice system in the United Stated (Riches 1990).



Population and Sampling procedure

The study was conducted in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan. Administratively, KP is divided into 24 districts and 7 divisions. One district was randomly selected from each of the divisions except Malakand. In Malakand division, the judicial system is different from the rest of the country. Instead of the common law system of administration of justice, Malakand division has Nizam-e-Adal regulations for dispute resolution among the people. As per the recommendations of Sekaran (2003: 273) as the population consists of several groups i.e. judges, lawyers and litigants, probability sampling design of stratified random sampling was applied in this study.


The number of judges in different districts was taken from the Peshawar High Court’ web site on December, 2012, and the number of lawyers in different districts were taken from the KP bar council’ web site, while the number of litigants was infinite. Total population of lawyers and judges was 10,022 out of which 9806 were lawyers (5,751 lower courts lawyers and 4,055 upper court lawyers) and 216 were judges. The litigants’ population was not know, therefore, the litigants’ sample size was calculated separately. Sample size was determined by using Cochran (1977: 77) formula; the calculated population size was 461, of which 20 were judges, 327 were lawyers and 114.


Instrumentation described

Questionnaire survey design was used in this study as per the recommendations of Yin (2004: 10). It is also a most common research design to study delay in justice (Iruoma, 2005: 4; Law Commission of India, 1978). The questionnaire was developed by the researcher on the basis of relevant literature, documents and research questions.


Table 2: Hypotheses of the study


Test to be applied

(HA1): Budgetary causes are responsible for the delay in civil justice in lower courts of Pakistan. 

Mean score

HA3: There is statistically significant difference between the perception of lawyers, judges and litigants about the budgetary causes of delay in civil justice.

One way ANOVA

HA4: There is statistically significant difference between the perception of lawyers and judges having experience of ‘up to ten years’ and ‘above ten years’ about the budgetary causes of delay in civil justice.

Two independent sample t test


The questionnaire consists of three different sections. Section one is about the demographic data. The second part of the questionnaire measures the budgetary causes of delay in justice in the lower courts of Pakistan. The third part of the questionnaire measures dependent variable of delay in justice; this part have four questions that whether the cases in courts are delayed because of lawyers, judges, procedure or the judicial budget. The respondents replied on a 7-point Likert type continuum ranging from 1 to 7.


To know the perception of the respondents regarding individual factor as a cause of delay mean response score was used while One way ANOVA was used to find out if there is a perceptual difference between the three groups of the respondents. Two independent sample t-test was applied to find out if a perceptual difference exists between lawyers and judges having experience of up to ten years and above ten years with reference to budgetary causes of delay in justice.


Results and discussion

In research, it is necessary to ensure that the instrument used for data collection is reliable. In order to test such reliability, McMillan and Schumacher (1989: 242) recommends that in case of a questionnaire survey where there are several possible answers for each item Cronbach alpha (α) is the most appropriate type of reliability. After measurement the value of the coefficient alpha of the study constructs was found 0.790 which was greater than the proposed standard of 0.70 (Sashkin & Glaser 1990) which means that the measures applied in this study can reasonably measure the constructs of interest.


As a whole all the respondents agreed with a mean score of (6.0701) that the budgetary causes of delay were responsible for delay in the dispute resolution process. These budgetary causes of delay in justice were six in number. To find out the major causes of delay in justice, responses to the questionnaire when statistically evaluated, following results were obtained.


All the respondents believed that the number of judges in courts is inadequate having a mean score of (6.41). Study of previously published literature reveals that this inadequacy of number of judges is considered as problem in quick dispensation of justice worldwide (Gillespie, 1977: 50; Hamid, 2007: 32; Zeisel, Kalven, and Buchholz, 1959: 44; Anyebe, 2012: 166). Despite having so many proponents, this cause of delay have also some opponents like Martin et al. (1981: 33) who studied appellate courts in America and concluded that the relative number available to process cases does not necessarily determine case processing time. This difference of findings between the two studies might be because there is difference of procedure lower court and appellate court. The court of original jurisdiction will have to study all the facts and figures of the case, while in an appellate court most of the steps as pleadings, framing of issues and presentation of evidence is skipped except in special cases and a case always starts with the arguments stage, which shortens case processing time. Moreover Martin et al. (1981: 33) conducted his study in USA where judge-to-case-ratio is higher enough that slow case processing can easily be attributed to low efficiency of judges. However, in lower courts of Pakistan, judge-to-case-ratio is awfully low. It is natural for the respondents to believe that judge to case ratio should be lifted to at least a manageable level.


For smooth running of judicial machinery judges require help from ministerial staff. Insufficiency or inefficiency of ministerial staff might hamper the pace of litigation. In this study, it was agreed upon that ministerial staff is inadequate to meet the requirements of case load which lead to delay with a mean response score of the respondents of (6.34). This chronic shortage of ministerial staff is also recognized by Eshuiss (2007: 28), Reiling (2009: 105) and Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan (2003: 158, 1997: 15) as a cause of their inability to do their job properly.


The inadequate number of the process servers was considered a genuine cause of delay by all the three groups of respondents (6.17). Tariq (2005: 88) and Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan (1997: 18) confirmed that process servers are overworked. Ministerial staff and process servers may indulge in corrupt practices due to having nominal salary packages and may tend to help unscrupulous lawyers and litigants in their delaying tactics. The respondents also ratified this fact unanimously (5.25). Irshad (2011: 195) argued that the staff at lower level is an easy prey to temptation owing to their fragile financial position. They are grossly underpaid and depend on small bribes to feed and educate their families.


Out-dated land registration system is mainly responsible for the present case load in courts having a substantial portion of land cases, which was accepted as a cause of delay by all the respondents (6.04). Mumtaz and Nosherwani (2006), Nasir (2010: 11), and Qazi (2006: 2) considered the official procedures in the present land administration system as complicated and inaccurate which always delays the court decisions.


The inadequate use of information technology in courts for quick dispensation of justice as a cause of delay was opposed by none and all the respondents agreed its being a cause of delay in justice (6.21). Buscaglia and Ulen (1997: 290), Reiling (2009: 105), Anyebe (2012: 164) and Burbank (2004) acknowledged that despite living in the age of technology we have not yet utilized this technology in our courts to accelerate court processing in a true sense.


In order to find out whether there is a perceptual difference between the three groups of lawyers judges and litigants with reference to the budgetary causes of delay, One-way ANOVA was considered an appropriate statistical test which was run with keeping the confidence level at 95% or the value of α at .05.




Table 1: Question wise descriptive statistics (Survey conducted in 2014)




Std. Deviation


1. Courts have inadequate number of judges





















2. Insufficient number of ministerial staff in courts





















3. Inadequate number of process servers





















4.Nominal salaries of process servers and clerical staff





















5.Inadequate land registration system





















6.Inefficient use of computer technology






















The results of the one-way ANOVA given in Table 2 disclosed that lawyers, judges and litigants had different and statistically significant perceptions about the budgetary insufficiency as a cause of delay in justice (p = .000, p < .05). In order to find out differences among individual groups post-hoc tests were performed which revealed that all the three groups had different perceptions about the budgetary causes of delay in justice.


Table 2: One way ANOVA results (Survey conducted in 2014)


Sum of Squares


Mean Square



Between Groups







Within Groups














To find out if a perceptual difference exists between lawyers and judges having experience of up to ten years and above ten years with reference to budgetary causes of delay in justice, two independent sample t-test was applied as given in Table 3 which proved that there was no statistically significant difference between the two groups of respondents.


Table 3: Independent samples t test results (Survey conducted in 2014)


Levene's Test for Equality of Variances

t-test for Equality of Means





Sig. (2-tailed)

Mean Difference

Std. Error Difference

95% Confidence Interval of the Difference



Budgetary causes of delay

Equal variances assumed










Equal variances not assumed












Although the government has been increasing the judicial budget in the near past at different intervals but still it is less than one per cent of the federal budget. With such a meagre budget it is impossible for the heavily overworked courts to deliver swift justice to the people. Total number of judges working in Pakistan in different courts whether of Superior judiciary or in lower courts is 4200 for a huge population of 20 million. Which makes the judge to population ratio 1 for 47619 persons; this ratio is far below the international standard (Hussain, 2015).

This quantitative research concludes that financial constraints are very important element to be considered if justice is to be extended at grass root level. The statements given by judiciary, senior lawyers and public as beneficiaries is further supported by statistical analysis of the responses given by the sample of respondents mentioned earlier to draw this conclusion that by and large budgetary causes of delay were mainly responsible for delay in justice. Regarding the individual budgetary causes of delay inadequate number of judges in the courts was considered the most important one as the judges are extremely overburdened and until this burden is removed or appreciably lightened, the prospect is gloomy.

Other causes of delay, such as lack of proper supervision, unsatisfactory service of processes, non-attendance of witnesses and frequent adjournments granted in cases are only collateral and they can be relevant only if the presiding officers will have time to address to these matters.

The second most important cause is insufficient number of ministerial staff in the courts because a great deal of preliminary work for getting cases ready for disposal is done by the ministerial staff and therefore even if the number of judges is increased, they will not be able to work properly without a fair increase in the number of the ministerial staff and process servers.

Thirdly, computers are perceived to have the ability to efficiently speed up the court proceedings and several countries like Argentina and Venezuela have successfully used them for speedy case disposal. Inadequate number of process servers is a hurdle in the way of speedy dispute resolution because they cannot serve the processes in time due to which the judges will have to adjourn case several times. Land registration system in Pakistan is confusing. Nominal salaries are paid to the process servers and clerical staff which make them an easy prey to temptation owing to their fragile financial position.

Taking into account the limitations of this study, the following recommendations are made for the future research. 

  1. Although modern technologies of computer and IT are recommended to be used in the courts but what is the best way to use these technologies in the courts still needs to be explored.
  2. Land registration system is erroneous and complicated. How to make it simple and error free is a question mark.
  3. The system of process serving in Pakistan is out dated. How to make it reliable and capable of serving the processes in due time need studies of modern ways of process serving.



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About the Authors

Dr. Raza Ullah Shah is a PhD in Law. He has served as Assistant Professor at the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Peshawar. He can be reached at razaullahphd@gmail.com