Overcoming lacunae to deliver justice.

LAW is a complex subject. Because people have superfluous understanding of complexities and technicalities of law, any judgement that does not resonate with common reasoning is deemed unjust.

In the resultant mist of confusion and resentment, public levels up its criticism on judicial procedures. What goes unnoticed is the question of what if the law in itself provides loopholes to the powerful and, hence, requires mending. This is what happens in most murder cases in Pakistan.

What a layman does not know is that the judge, any judge, can only interpret laws that have been laid down by parliament. The judges have little jurisdiction or authority beyond what has already been provided in the statutes or the basis of precedents that also derive legitimacy from either statutes or ordinances; both are not areas under their ambit of power. Judges do not make laws. Period.

With regards to law on murder cases in Pakistan, the greatest loophole for the manipulator is its compoundable nature. Murder is a compoundable offence which can be compromised by paying certain amount of money to the heirs of the victim i.e., diyat, or by any compromise between the two parties. It is perfectly legal in Islamic law as well as the Pakistani law.

Although the Holy Quran lays emphasis on qisas - death penalty - as the preferred form of justice if order is to be maintained in society, room has been provided for settlement in case the murderers 'correct' themselves or the heirs of victims enter into a voluntary financial closure.

Nevertheless, there are occasions where this law has been used by culprits as an escape route. There are two most frequently used ways to escape the claws of justice in such cases. The murderer, being a relative of the victim, is forgiven by the heirs who may also be abettors in some cases. In the other scenario, the murderer is often an influential person who pays compensation or uses coercion on the victim's family to enter into a settlement.

That being so, one may wonder about the function of the state if such heinous acts against individuals and society are committed and then settled outside court using money or influence. Any criminal offence is an offence against the state whereby the state is duty bound under social contract and the Constitution to safeguard life, liberty and dignity of its citizens.

In cases where the matter is resolved through money or influence, three of...

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