In a new article Judge Amir Munir, a Judge in the Punjab and an Instructor at the Punjab Judicial Academy, explores how therapeutic jurisprudence has inspired legal system reform in Pakistan.

Mainstreaming Therapeutic Jurisprudence in Pakistan: A Historical Discourse narrates the way that Judge Amir Munir has connected with the international Therapeutic Jurisprudence (TJ) community from his initial emails with TJ founder David Wexler through to his extensive engagement with other TJ writers and thinkers.   It wasn’t long before Judge Munir began applying TJ in his own writing and work.

By way of illustration, Judge Munir talks about how colonial structures and language can render the law inaccessible and how a TJ lens might drive reform:

…Urdu language has been declared as the official language of Pakistan. The 1973 Constitution directs that English language is not replaced with Urdu language, English may be used for official purposes. However, experience suggests that the major proceedings in trial courts are scribed in Urdu language but the judgments and the orders are mostly written by judges in English language. Here comes a great gap between the litigant and the law courts. Majority of the litigants do not understand English language and thus they have to rely on others to know what the court said or what the exact meanings of the order or judgment are. Here comes again the role of therapeutic jurisprudence. If the language of the people is used for court proceedings, it will minimize the distance between the justice system and its end-users, i.e., litigants.

Judge Munir’s efforts in this regard are not without hurdles:

…I have … tried to write few of judgments in my Court in Urdu language. In this exercise, I found a couple of problems. First that the courts are without proper equipment/gadgets for Urdu typing of decisions. Second, the stenographers and typists are not trained in typing Urdu language on computers. Judiciary need to hire services of Urdu typists in this regard. It is pertinent to mention that to write a judgment or order in Urdu language with one’s own hand takes lot of time and effort. In a court with long cause list, these efforts may go in vain quickly. Still further, judges and lawyers are trained in English for studying their law degrees. Thus, we need to have quality oriented legal dictionaries for translating legal terminology into simple Urdu language.

Judge Munir, however, believes that TJ thinking may be the key to reform:

…we can study therapeutic design of different laws with reference to judicial and legal movements in different countries to replace foreign colonial languages with local ones. Pakistan has made out a case for more dedicated studies into therapeutic impact of national language for litigants, lawyers and courts.

Building the international TJ community

The TJ community is a global one spanning nearly 20 countries across the world. On reading Judge Munir’s piece I was reminded of the importance of the practical steps we all need to take to build the international TJ community and promote better laws and legal systems:

  • to write about our experiences and ideas
  • to develop materials that can be shared and adapted for use by others
  • to share our articles, ideas and resources through channels such as this blog, the TJ List Serv, SSRN and the searchable TJ bibliography
  • to meet up with others by attend international conferences such as the TJ track of the biannual Congress of the International Academy of Law and Mental Health
  • to offer to give presentations and lectures for others (in person or via YouTube or by Skype).
  • to welcome and outreach out to new people and communities with the same generosity shown by TJ founders Bruce Winick and David Wexler and others who connected with Judge Munir.

You may have other ideas on how to build the TJ community, if so leave your comment below.

Judge Amir Munir’s full article is here and is well worth the read.

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