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Justice Nisar leaves a controversial legacy: legal experts

Justice Saqib Nisar retired on Thursday after completing his tenure. He was appointed the chief justice of the country on December 31, 2016.

January 20, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Although he was also revered as messiah for some of his public interest decisions, the former Chief Justice of Pakistan, Justice Saqib Nisar, would mostly be remembered for his controversial decisions and remarks which destroyed careers and reputation of several individuals.

According to constitutional experts and senior Supreme Court lawyers, the former chief justice left a mixed legacy making some popular decision but also interfering in the affairs of executive and setting some dangerous examples.

Justice Saqib Nisar retired on Thursday after completing his tenure. He was appointed the chief justice of the country on December 31, 2016.

Those on the receiving end of Justice Saqib Nisar’s aggressive “judicial activism” included politicians, government officials, businessmen, scientists, doctors and even journalists.

Legal experts believe among his most controversial decisions and remarks were verdict in Grand Hayat case, leniency towards accused target killer ex-SSP Rao Anwar, bargain attempts in a private housing society case, humiliation of an internationally acknowledge professor Dr Saeed Akhtar in PKLI case, dismissal of PIA CEO, contempt cases against PML-N leaders, and dual-nationality case against Prime Minister’s adviser Zulfi Bukhari.

His popular decisions included reduction of fees in private schools, decrease in prices of coronary stents and reforms in medical education, experts opined.

Talking to The News, former Supreme Court Bar Association President Kamran Murtaza said the most popular decisions of Justice Saqib Nisar were also most controversial ones as he exceeded his mandate while making such decisions.

He said the life-time disqualification of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was one of the popular decisions of the former Chief Justice, but it was also very controversial decision.

In April last year, a supreme court bench headed by the than Chief Justice Saqib Nisar ruled that disqualification handed down under Article 62 (1) (f) of the Constitution is for life.

“At times the former chief justice would be overcome by emotions and would tend to exceed legal limit,” said the senior lawyer.

He said the controversial decisions and remarks included Grand Hayat Case, Bargain attempts in Bahria case, PKLI case and contempt cases where his person was involved.

Prof Dr Saeed Akhtar, one of the top Urologists in the world and founder of PKLI, was fired last year by the Supreme Court and his name was placed on the exit control list on charges of getting heavy salary. The court had later ordered that Justice Iqbal Hameedur Rehman, a retired SC judge be appointed chairman of the ad hoc committee to manage and run the affairs of the Pakistan Kidney and Liver Institute (PKLI), Lahore.

The senior lawyer was of the view that bargains in court was such an alien phenomenon that some judges would scold lawyers for asking to reduce the sentence for the accused.

He said the contempt cases are normally initiated against those who are involved in contempt of the Supreme Court but “in cases where a judge is personally targeted, normally accused are forgiven by the worthy judges.”

However, the senior lawyer said the former Chief Justice is gone now and deserves respect. “I was expressing my opinion against his decisions when he was in office, but, now, I will mention him with respect when he has retired.”

While talking to The News about the legacy of Justice Saqib Nisar, constitutional expert and senior lawyer Abid Hassan Minto said when a judge starts believing that he can sort out all the issues of the country, he tends to take notice on even petty issues and this paves the way for misuse of authority.

Anybody who crosses his constitutional limits automatically becomes controversial, Minto added.

He said criticism on Justice Saqib Nisar is justified in some matters particularly where the former Chief Justice started interfering in the affairs of executive while ignoring his own judicial duties

However, another senior Supreme Court Lawyer Azhar Siddique showered praise on former chief justice and termed his tenure as “a golden era in the judicial history of Pakistan”.

“Under him, for the first time [the] Supreme Court heard the voice of poor and downtrodden directly and has been able to render justice at doorstep. He resolved more than 120,000 human rights cases during his tenure,” said Siddique.

According to him under Justice Saqib Nisar justice was delivered without fear and favour for the first time.

He said Article 25 of the constitution--which deals with equality of citizens--was enforced literally under the former CJ.

While talking his popular decisions, Siddique mentioned reduction in fees by medical colleges, improvement in private health case, decrease in private school fee and reduction in stent prices.

The senior lawyer also applauded efforts of the former chief justice to create awareness about need for the dam construction and his practical attempts to raise funds for that purpose.

When asked about former CJ’s humiliating behavior with revered doctor Saeed Akhtar of the Pakistan Kidney and Liver Institute (PKLI), Azhar Siddique defended the decision and said it was a result of former CJ’s personal interest that PKLI was made functional. He praised CJ for his action against land-grabbers and move for population control.