Our multinational energy company has been told that it may have to resolve a local dispute in Pakistan?How do the Provincial High Courts and Lower Courts in Pakistan Work?

Provincial High Courts

Provincial High Courts are the apex courts for common law court systems operating in the provinces, and is generally seen as the highest appellate level for the province. However, multinational companies do use these courts as court of original jurisdiction for cases involving tax matters. Further, multinational companies also use the constitutional writ jurisdiction of these courts for staying administrative actions of Government agencies, specially illegal actions of customs authorities.

Each of the four (4) provinces of Pakistan have a High Court (i.e. Lahore High Court for province of Punjab and Islamabad, Karachi High Court for province of Sindh, Peshawar High Court for province of NWFP, and Quetta High Court for province of Balochistan) and subordinate courts of civil and criminal jurisdiction.

Although, High courts are based in provincial capitals, satellite benches of such courts also exist in other cities.

Each High Court is presided by a Chief Justice. However, number of judges vary, depending on the number of satellite benches of the High court in cities other than provincial capitals. President of Pakistan appoints the Chief Justice of the High Court from amongst existing High Court justices, in consultation with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the Governor of the province. The other justices are appointed by the President of Pakistan from amongst practicing lawyers, in consultation with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the Governor of the province and the Chief Justice of the High Court.

Appeals from lower courts or cases within original jurisdiction of the High Court are heard by a bench of High Court Justice or Justices constituted by the Chief Justice of the High Court.

Lower Courts

Each province is divided into Session Divisions (generally same as administrative district), each headed by a District and Sessions Judge. There also exists the Courts of Additional District and Sessions Judges, Labor Judges (for labor matters only), Civil Judges (for civil matters only), Magistrates (for criminal matters only), according to respective need and functions, under the control of the District and Sessions Judges.

These judges are appointed by the provincial governments from amongst candidates who are selected as lower court judges by the Public Service Commission.

Most labor, land access and environment related civil suits instituted against multinational companies are filed in the courts of Civil Judges or Labor Judges (trial level), which are appealed to either District and Sessions Court (first appeals level) or directly to the provincial High Court (final appellate level for the province) depending on the pecuniary limit of the case.