A faulty understanding of how court  jurisdiction works in Pakistan, can cause a waste of time for clients as it may cause a dismissal or referral of the cases.For the ease of our clients we have set out a summary of how jurisdiction works at each level of the judiciary and how to make sure that your case has not been referred to or is being pleaded in the wrong tribunal.

If you have a case for which you are unsure about the correct legal tribunal, feel free to send us an email at aemen@joshandmak.com.

Court Jurisdiction in Pakistan

SUPREME COURT

  1. 184(1) Original jurisdiction in inter-governmental disputes, issues declaratory judgments;
  2. 184(3) Enforcement of Fundamental Rights involving an issue of public importance;
  3. Art 185(2) Appeal from judgment/order of High Court in criminal cases, tried in original and/or appellate capacity and having imposed death penalty or life imprisonment;
  4. Art 185(2) Appeal in civil cases when the value of claim exceeds fifty thousand rupees;
  5. Art 185(2) Appeal when High Court certifies that the case involves interpretation of the Constitution;
  6. Art 185(3) Appeal (subject to grant of leave) from High Court judgment/order;
  7. Art 186 Advisory jurisdiction on any question of law involving public importance referred by the President;
  8. Art 187 To issue directions/orders for doing complete justice in a pending case/matter;
  9. Art 188 To review any of its own judgment/order;
  10. Art 204 To punish for its contempt;
  11. Art 212 Appeal from Administrative courts/tribunals; and
  12. Art 203F Its Shariat Appellate Bench hears appeals from judgments/orders of Federal Shariat Court.

FEDERAL SHARIAT COURT

  1. Art 203-D       To determine whether a provision of law is repugnant to the Injunctions of Islam;
  1. Art 203 DD Revisional Jurisdiction in cases under Hudood laws;
  1. Art 203 E To review its judgment/order;
  1. Art 203 E To punish for its contempt; and
  1. Under Hudood laws, hears appeals from judgment/order of criminal courts.

  HIGH COURT

  1. Art 199(1) to issue 5 writs namely mandamus, prohibition, certiorari, habeas corpus, certiorari and quo warranto;
  2. Art 199(2) Enforcement of Fundamental Rights;
  3. Art 203: To supervise/control subordinate courts;
  4. Art 204: To punish for its contempt;
  5. To hear appeal under S.100 of CPC;
  6. To decide reference under S.100 of CPC;
  7. Power of review under S.114 of CPC;
  8. Power of revision under S.115 of CPC;
  9. Appeals under S.410 of Cr.P.C;
  10. Appeals against acquittal under S.417 of CPC;
  11. Appeals against judgment/decree/order of tribunals under special laws;
  12. To issue directions of the nature of habeas corpus under S.491 of Cr.P.C;
  13. Inter-Court appeal at Lahore High Court and High Court of Sindh,{High Court of Sindh has original jurisdiction in civil cases of the value of above 3 million}

DISTT. & SESSIONS JUDGE/ADDL. DISTT. & SESSIONS JUDGE

  1. Appeal against judgment/decree of a Civil Judge under S.96 of CPC;
  1. Appeal against order under S.104 of CPC;
  1. Power of revision under S.115 of CPC;
  1. Original jurisdiction in suits upon bills of exchange, hundies or promissory notes under Order XXXVII of CPC;
  1. Murder trial under S.265 A of the Cr.P.C;
  1. Criminal trial under Hudood laws;
  1. Appeals under S.423 of Cr.P.C;
  1. Power of revision under S.435 of Cr.P.C;
  1. To issue directions of the nature of habeas corpus under S.491 of Cr.P.C; and
  1. Decides pre-arrest bail applications under S 498 of the Cr. PC.

(In Karachi District, the original jurisdiction of Distt Judge is limited to Rupees 3 million)

CIVIL JUDGE 1ST CLASS

  1. To try all civil suits, there is no pecuniary limit on its jurisdiction;
  1. In certain jurisdictions also designated as Rent Controller;
  1. In certain jurisdictions also designated as Judge, Family Court;
  1. At Karachi, pecuniary jurisdiction limited to rupees 3 million (Karachi Courts Order 1956); and
  1. In certain jurisdictions designated as Magistrate empowered under S.30 of Cr.P.C.

CIVIL JUDGE 2ND CLASS

  1. To try civil suit up to the value of fifty thousand rupees; and
  1. In certain jurisdictions designated as Rent Controller/Judge, Family Court.

CIVIL JUDGE 3RD CLASS

 To try civil suit up to the value of twenty thousand rupees.

 MAGISTRATE 1ST CLASS

  To try offences punishable up to 3 years imprisonment and fifty thousand rupees fine.

MAGISTRATE 2ND CLASS

To try offences punishable up to 1 year and five thousand rupees fine.

MAGISTRATE 3RD CLASS

To try offences punishable up to 1 month and one thousand rupees fine

More information updated as of 2016

Within the judicial hierarchy of Pakistan the Supreme Court of Pakistan is the Apex Constitutional Court and the respective provincial courts are the Lahore High Court (Punjab), Sindh High Court (Sindh), Balochistan High Court (Balochistan), Peshawar High Court (Khyber- Pakhtunkhwa) and newly constituted Islamabad High Court, Islamabad. Furthermore, the subordinated lower courts exercising civil and criminal influence in addition to hearings and special courts created under special laws and legislations are working across Pakistan.

In the judicial systems of Pakistan the Supreme Court of Pakistan is at its peak. the chief justice also known as CJP and a number of other judges are determined.

The SCP is at the head of the judicial systems of Pakistan. It consists of a chief justice and such number of other judges as may be determined by an act of Parliament. The President appoints the Chief Justice of the SCP after their nomination made by the Judicial Commission of Pakistan and clearance from Parliamentary Committee. The SCP has original, appellate and suggested authority. It is the final arbiter of the legal and constitutional disputes and its judgments are binding on all courts. All executive and judicial authorities are required to act in aid of the Supreme Court.

In each provincial High Court the President appoints the judges after nomination by Judicial Commission of Pakistan and clearance from Parliamentary Committee through Prime Minister of Pakistan. The law minister of the respective province, the Chief justice of the respective High Court and a nominee of respective provincial Bar Council are also members of the Judicial Commission of Pakistan for making appointments of respective High Court judges. High courts enjoy both original civil, criminal and appellate jurisdictions. High Courts are for Punjab Lahore High Court with its principal seat at Lahore, and Benches at Bahawalpur, Multan and Rawalpindi. For Sindh, the High Courts of Sindh with its principal seat at Karachi and Circuit Benches at Sukkur, Hyderabad and Larkana, For KPK, the Peshawar High Court with its principal two benches at Abbottabad and D.I. Khan, for Balochistan, the High Court of Balochistan with its principal seat at Quettta. The subordinated judiciary in each province is divided into session divisions (generally same as administrative district), each headed by a district and sessions judge. There also exist the courts of additional district and session’s judges, under the supervisory and administrative control of the district and sessions judge. The provincial governments from the candidates who are selected as lower court judges by the provincial High Courts appoint the judges. There are lower courts as well which comprise of senior civil judges cum judicial magistrates, civil judges, class I, class II and class III, with class III being the most junior category amongst the judges.

The Federal Shariat Court (FSC) was created in 1980 with original and appellate jurisdiction to determine, suo moto or on petition by a citizen or by the federal or a provincial government, as to whether or not a certain provision of law is repugnant to the injunctions of Islam. A Shariat Appellate Bench also functions under SCP to review the decision of FSC. When a law is declared to be inconsistent with Islamic injunctions, the President, in the case of a federal law, or the governor, in the case of a provincial law, is advised to take an appropriate step to bring that law in conformity with the injunctions of Islam. The court also hears appeals from decisions of criminal courts under laws relating to the enforcement of Hudood laws, the laws pertaining to core offences such as intoxication, theft, adultery and unlawful sexual intercourse for which strict punishments have been prescribed in the Holy Quran.

The subordinate judiciary may be divided into two classes; first are civil courts established under the West Pakistan Civil Court Ordinance 1962 and the second are criminal courts, created under the Criminal Procedure Code 1898 (CrPC). There also exist other courts and tribunals created under special laws and enactments.

Following is the structure of subordinate judiciary, special tribunals and special courts which can be found below:-

  • District Courts of Pakistan (one in each district);
  • Judicial Magistrate Courts (with power of section 30 of CrPC only in criminal trials);
  • Judicial Magistrate Courts (in every town and city);
  • Executive Magistrate Courts (summary trial court);
  • Courts of Civil Judge (judges with power of first class and second class cases);
  • Revenue Courts (West Pakistan Land Revenue Act, 1967);
  • Consumer Protection Courts (Islamabad Consumers Protection Act, 1995);
  • Rent Controller (West Pakistan Urban Rent Restriction Ordinance, 1959);
  • Environmental Protection Tribunal (EPT);[1]
  • Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT);[2]
  • Insurance Appellate Tribunals (IAT);[3]
  • Customs Excise & Sales Tax Appellate Tribunal;[4]
  • Federal Service Tribunal (FST);[5]
  • Special Courts (Control of Narcotics Substances);[6]
  • Banking Courts (Recovery of Loans);
  • Special Courts (Offences in Banks);
  • Special Courts (Customs, Taxation & Anti-Smuggling);[7]

  • Special Judges (Central) Anti-Corruption;[8]
  • Drugs Courts; [9]
  • Anti-Terrorism Courts;
  • National Accountability Courts; (National Accountability Bureau Ordinance, 1999);
  • Labour Courts; (Industrial Relations Act, 2008).

Matters and hear appeals against the orders of federal or provincial EPAs, an appeal against the final order/sentence of EPTs is preferred to the respective provincial High Court. With its headquarters at Islamabad, there are nineteen ITAT Benches at Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar, they hear appeals against the orders of Commissioner of Income Tax (Appeals) regarding Income Tax/Wealth Tax Department. This was created under the Insurance Act, 1938, (IAT) at Karachi has civil jurisdiction in respect of policy-holder claims against insurance companies and is vested with the powers of a Civil Court, it has criminal jurisdiction in respect of offences punishable under the Insurance Ordinance, 2000 and is vested with the powers of court of Sessions. Created under the customs Act, 1969 the Tribunal has eighth benches out of which three at Karachi and two each at Lahore and Islamabad and one at Peshawar. Other than that created in 1974 under Services Tribunals Act, 1973, the FST’s principal seat is at Islamabad, two Benches, one each at Lahore and Karachi, hear appeals of the federal government’s employees serving in the province of Sindh and Punjab. There are special courts, which were established under the These special courts were established under the Control of Narcotics Substances Act, 1997. Presided over by district and session judges these courts try cases registered under the Control of Narcotics Substances Act, 1997; appeal against the judgments of these courts is filed before Divisional Bench of the High Court. These courts are functioning under Customs Act, 1969 and presided over by special judges. Eight courts of special judge (central) anti-corruption have been established under the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1958 throughout the country.

There were nine drug courts functioning at Karachi, Gujranwala, Multan, Lahore, Faisalabad, Rawalpindi, Bahawalpur, Peshawar and Quetta, under the Drug Act, 1976, presided over by a chairman.

The major Acts, Ordinances and Orders instrumental in administration of justice, functioning of courts and settlement of disputes are as follows:-

  • Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan 1973 (The supreme and cardinal law of the country)
  • Pakistan Penal Code, 1860 (substance law to define what is an offence)
  • Criminal Procedure Code, 1898 (procedural law for criminal offences);
  • Civil Procedure Code, 1908 (procedural law for civil disputes)
  • The Qanun-e-Shahadat Order, 1984 (Evidence Act) prescribes the competency of witness, the examination of witnesses, form of evidence and the procedure for presenting the same and so forth
  • Arbitration Act, 1940 (disputes resolution mechanism by agreement among and by parties
  • Specific Relief Act, 1877 (for performance of contractual obligations through courts)
  • Contract Act, 1940 (substantive law for drafting, making, amending and discharge of agreements)
  • Companies Act, 1984 (corporate law)
  • Security & Exchange Commission of Pakistan Act, 1997 (regulations over corporate business)
  • Competition Commission of Pakistan Act, 2010 (law for avoidance of cartels and monopolies)
  • Transfer of Property Act, 1882 (immoveable property transfer law)
  • Registration Act, 1908 (Registration of documents)
  • Land Acquisition Act, 1894 (compulsory acquisition of land by government for setting up dams, highways, etc.)
  • Sales of Goods Act, 1930 (law on delivery of moveable property and goods)
  • Arbitration Act, 1940 (alternate dispute resolution)
  • Arbitration (International Investment Disputes) Act, 2010 (to implement the international convention on the settlement of investment disputes between states and nationals of other states)
  • Code of Corporate Governance, 2002 (corporate governance of the listed companies)

There is an important feature of the judicial system of Pakistan is the office of Wafaqi Mohtasib (Ombudsman) established under establishment of the office of Wafaqi Mohtasib (Ombudsman) Order, 1983 which provide for the appointment of the Wafaqi Mohtasib (Ombudsman) to diagnose, investigate, redress and rectify any injustice done to a person through maladministration by a federal or provincial agency or a federal or provincial government official. Provincial Ombudsman also functions in each respective province. As per the appointment by the president, the Mohtasib holds office for four years; the term cannot be extended or renewed. The Mohtasib is empowered to punish for defiance of its order by any person.

The Mohtasib is not able to decide upon service matters, foreign affairs, national defense affairs, sub-justice matter before any court and the affairs of armed forces. This institution is designed to remove administrative excesses by the executives and provide speedy redressal of public accusations with an aim to improve administrative processes, procedures and to control misuse of optional controls. An application can be escorted to President of Pakistan against the findings or decision of Wafaqi Mohtasib of Pakistan.

[1] Created under the Pakistan Environmental Protection Act, 1997, EPTs deal with environmental

[2] Created under the Pakistan Environmental Protection Act, 1997, EPTs deal with environmental

[3] Created under the Pakistan Environmental Protection Act, 1997, EPTs deal with environmental

[4] Created under the Pakistan Environmental Protection Act, 1997, EPTs deal with environmental

[5] Created under the Pakistan Environmental Protection Act, 1997, EPTs deal with environmental

[6] Created under the Pakistan Environmental Protection Act, 1997, EPTs deal with environmental

[7] Created under the Pakistan Environmental Protection Act, 1997, EPTs deal with environmental

[8] Created under the Pakistan Environmental Protection Act, 1997, EPTs deal with environmental

[9] Created under the Pakistan Environmental Protection Act, 1997, EPTs deal with environmental