Sharia Court Dispenses ‘Justice’ In Lahore

In a manifestation of people’s growing distrust in conventional judicial system and mounting influence of religious organisations in society, Jamatud Dawa (JuD) has set up ‘Darul Qaza Sharia’ in the provincial metropolis to dispense ‘justice’ among people in light of Sharia laws, Dawn has learnt.

Sharia court dispenses ‘justice’ in Lahore
Sharia court dispenses ‘justice’ in Lahore

A legal expert Dawn talked to said this is in sheer violation of the Constitution of Pakistan. However, the organisation claims it offers arbitration only and resolves disputes in light of Sharia. The JuD is not a proscribed organisation and claims to render social welfare services besides running charitable schools and hospitals in calamity-hit cities of the country especially. Sources say the organisation’s ‘Arbitration Court of Sharia’ has been taking up complaints of citizens approaching it for justice and summoning the ‘defendants’ in person or through a legal counsel with warnings of strict action under the Sharia laws in case of no response.

 A copy of official JuD summons available with Dawn bears two monograms – Darul Qaza Sharia, Jamatud Dawa Pakistan and Saalsi Sharai Adalat-i-Aalia (Arbitration Court of Sharia). The ‘court’ has been established at the organisation’s headquarters, Jamia Qadsia, Chauburji under a Qazi (judge) who is assisted by Khadmins (court associates) to decide the complaints. The complaints are addressed to the chief of the religious organisation who later refers them to Qazi for further proceedings. Sources say complainants approach the ‘arbitration court’ in the hope of swift solutions as litigation before conventional courts takes much time especially in civil cases. The organisation’s spokesman Yahya Mujahid defends the functioning of the ‘Sharia Court’ saying it is not a parallel system to the constitutional courts of the country.

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“It is an arbitration court, which decides disputes with the consent of the parties,” he said. He states disputes have been resolved in accordance with Islamic laws and that offering arbitration to confronting parties is not illegal. The spokesman failed to justify issuance of summons carrying a warning of strict action in case of non-compliance, when mentioned that there can be no coercion on any of the disputing party in arbitration. In one such case regarding a monetary dispute between two property developers, the ‘Sharia Court’ has been issuing summons to the defendant. However, the defendant has not appeared before the Qazi so far. 

He has written letters to judicial and executive authorities, including chief justice of Pakistan and prime minister, complaining about the unconstitutional summons being issued to him by the religious organisation. The letters are yet to be answered whereas the JuD spokesman offers no explanation to the practice of serving summons. Pakistan Bar Council member Azam Nazir Tarar says the Constitution does not allow any private organisation to use the word “court”. The word can be used for Supreme Court, Federal Shariat Court, high courts and all other courts established by a high court only. “This is parallel judicial system and against the law of the land,” he maintained in a talk with Dawn. He says conventional courts of the country are working under Quran, Sunnah and Sharia laws.

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The Constitution of Pakistan bars any law against Quran and Sharia, Mr Tarar maintains. Deputy Inspector General (Operations) Dr Haider Ashraf denies any knowledge of the existence of ‘Sharia Court’ or having received any complaint in this regard. He says police will take action if they received any complaint as the law did not allow any parallel judicial system.