ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry on Thursday said that Pakistan was passing through a critical phase of its history wherein day-to-day incidents of kidnapping for ransom, abduction, target killing, forced disappearances, energy crisis, corruption and nepotism had crippled the socio-economic development and shattered the confidence of the public in government functionaries.
He said that the interpretation of laws was the judiciary’s calling whereas the implementation of those laws was the executive’s responsibility. Addressing a full-court reference on the occasion of Justice Shakirullah Jan’s retirement, the chief justice said that the judiciary was aware of the fundamental rights of the people and the authorities and rights of state institutions. He said that the judiciary held a position parallel to that of the legislature and of the executive.
The chief justice rejected the perception that the judiciary was playing the role of the opposition, adding that all state institutions should respect the judiciary’s independence.
He added that the existence of and respect for an independent judiciary was inevitable for any state. The chief justice said that the judiciary was performing within the constitutional
domain and was currently the most unified and integrated force of the country and was fully conversant with its basic duty to protect the rights of citizens as well as institutions against constitutional excesses. “In any democratic set-up, the judiciary stands on the highest pedestal as compared to the other two organs i.e. the executive and the legislature; it is the defender of constitutional supremacy and rule of law,” the CJ said.
He further said that the bar and bench together could bring major reforms in the legal and judicial system through mutual understanding, liaison and cooperation and thus mitigate the common problems of backlog of cases, frivolous and protracted litigation, heavy costs and court fees, non-appearance of lawyers and witnesses and the likes. “Their joint endeavours can facilitate the judicial institution to perform its due role as envisaged in the Constitution and law,” he added.
The chief justice said that he felt pride in saying that despite several impediments, the courts in Pakistan were fully alive to their constitutional responsibilities of safeguarding democracy and the Constitution and had succeeded in providing justice at the grassroots level. “An impartial, independent and accountable judicial sector is crucial to the protection of basic human rights, fair resolution of disputes and the sustainable economic and political development, the CJ opined.
He said the government should devise workable mechanisms and adopt high ideals of democracy in order to bring peace and harmony in the country.
The chief justice expressed hope that all state institutions and civil society would join hands to achieve the common goal of transforming Pakistan into a true welfare state by following the principles of rule of law, fairness, accountability, transparency and constitutional supremacy.
Paying rich tributes to Justice Mian Shakirullah Jan, the chief justice said that he had rendered great services to the judicial institution through his extraordinary abilities, legal acumen, in-depth understanding of law, patience, wisdom, incorruptibility and impartial judgments. He said that Justice Jan endeavoured to serve the cause of independence of the judiciary and rule of law throughout his legal and judicial career.
He was one of the judges who refused to take oath under a military dictator in 2007 and was made dysfunctional, the CJ recalled. After restoration, the CJ said Justice Jan adorned the larger bench rendering the historical verdict in the case of Sindh High Bar Association (SHCBA), which laid to rest the doctrine of necessity and foreclosed the possibility of future military regimes.
The CJ said that Justice Jan was also a member of the bench in the case of Dr Mobashir Hassan, wherein the Supreme Court of Pakistan annulled the National reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) and directed reopening all graft cases pending in the accountability courts of Pakistan.
He said that in 2009, Justice Sandra E Oxner of Canada presented a certificate to Justice Jan as an acknowledgment of the stand taken by him and other superior court judges against the military dictatorship in 2007.
In his own speech, Justice Shakirullah Jan said that during their tenure, the judiciary continued its struggle for rule of law and the historic lawyers’ movement finally saw the light of the day. “The slogan of “Justice for all” is now giving us the courage to decide the matters of the powerful, poor and vulnerable alike. Public confidence in the judiciary is increasing. The protagonist of this movement was no other but Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Chief Justice of Pakistan, whose untiring and selfless efforts for the independence of judiciary and rule of law have so much glorified the honour of this institution that today we feel proud to be part of it,” Justice Jan added.
He said that it would be unjust if he did not appreciate the efforts of civil society and especially the media for persistently giving new hope and awareness to the general public. “Now people talk of the rule of law and independence of judiciary while sitting in their drawing rooms. The whole trend of social fabric has taken a new and healthy turn,” he said.
Additional Attorney General Habibullah Shakir called for observance of restraint under the trichotomy of powers among the state institutions while Vice chairman Pakistan Bar Council Akhtar Hussain in his speech called for increasing the strength of judges in the high courts by giving consideration to PBC resolutions for amending the rules and for making the process of appointment more transparent and free from criticism.
President Supreme Court Bar Association Yaseen Azad said that every citizen in the country wished to see the judiciary independent because it was their last hope ; however, they also want democracy to continue and every government to complete the term for which it was elected by the people. “We want the Parliament to be independent and that political issues must be solved by the concerned authority. We want a good relationship among the institutions,” he added.
Azad wished a happy life for retiring Justice Jan and eulogised his services. Later, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry while speaking on the occasion of the dinner he hosted in honour of Justice Shakirullah, he said that he was one of those judges who had contributed greatly to altering the constitutional and jurisprudential history of Pakistan. He said that he could vividly recall the tumultuous days of the lawyers’ movement when along with his other brother judges, Mian Sahib stood like a rock to uphold the flag of constitutionalism and independence of judiciary in the country.