LAHORE: Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa on Sunday hinted at inclusion of women judges in the Supreme Court in near future.
Addressing the concluding session of the '3rd Women Judges Conference', held by the Punjab Judicial Academy (PJA) and the Lahore High Court (LHC) here, the CJP praised performance of women judges deputed at district and high courts.
"Our women judges have proven their abilities through their verdicts and, by the way, they have handled complex cases," said Justice Khosa. "We have 300 women judges in district courts and we hope to have at least one or two in the Supreme Court soon. I had an opportunity to propose two names and they are being actively considered. The role of women in our society is vital and it is increasing day by day," he added.
The CJP spoke about how the working environment affected the women judges in Pakistan as he urged them to remain confident in their abilities and relaxed in their demeanour. He said some of them were passing harsher judgments trying to prove a point to their male counterparts.
"Women judges have to take certain steps to survive in the male-dominated environment," said Justice Khosa, "But all judgments should be passed according to the law. Be firm but also be fair."
The CJ said Pakistan's courts have been working for protection of women's rights for the past 50 years, adding that for the country's prosperity, it was essential to ensure that women are empowered in all walks of life.
He cited the example of inheritance in which the Supreme Court had taken the initiative and said that if someone was denied their inheritance even hundreds of years ago, she could still establish her rights today. "The period of limitation will not be considered and she will be given her rights so that justice prevails," he said.
Additionally, the top judge shared that in most instances where concessions were given by courts in the country to women and in most of the efforts made to reinterpret the law and to extend legal rights to women, judgements were authored by judges who only had daughters.
He shared that he had the opportunity to propose two judges' names for the apex court and during the selection process, some female candidates were being "actively considered". "We should make women independent in other spheres of society as well.
He highlighted that female judges should work in a relaxed environment and should not present themselves as a stern judge. A female judge is respected not because of her strict judgments but because of her behaviour.
"Courtroom's environment depends upon your behaviour that doesn't require unnecessary strictness. Judges are entitled to dispense justice, and if they don't, there isn't any difference between you and a common man."
CJ Khosa remarked: "Female judges should free themselves from mental stress and discharge their duties in a convenient environment." He said that because female judges, work in an environment, dominated by men, they are expected to be very compassionate, kind and considerate "like mothers".
"But we have noticed that when they become judges, somehow because the whole atmosphere is male-dominated [...] a 'she judge' also likes to behave like a 'he judge' so that she is taken seriously.
"This is one thing that we have noticed, that she does not even smile in the courtroom, lest anyone gets some impression," the chief justice said, noting this was a problem that male judges did not experience. They would crack jokes with lawyers; they would relax the atmosphere and they would be comfortable with everybody else appearing in the court; but the female judges somehow have to change their personality. She has to become an iron lady so that nobody messes with her.
"So this is something that I wanted to discuss with you that just relax. Don't become 'he judges', he added.
The CJ affirmed that female judges were 'she judges' because they were better at many things. "You are compassionate, you are kind, you are considerate and when litigants will see you in court, they will feel that they can be in safe hands, very kind hands."
The CJ said he had an objection to the title of the conference "Women Judges Conference" and urged the organisers to coin some other phrase for it so that the distinction based on gender could be removed." This is a contradiction in terms.
"We've been told that we have to change the vocabulary [...] you haven't, please walk the talk. Act on what you tell us. Just behave like judges, normal judges, and dispense justice according to law and then people themselves will stop noticing whether they are appearing before a woman or male judge. But at the same time, you have to be firm in the court.
"Don't allow anybody to browbeat you; don't allow anybody to undermine your authority. Be courteous, but be firm," added the CJ.
"The Holy Quran also time and again stresses the need to ensure justice for all. Allah loves those who are just," Justice Khosa added.
Earlier, CJ Khosa said that bar and bench were the two wheels of justice, and effective coordination between those two was vital for dispensation of justice to masses.
Chief Justice Lahore High Court Sardar Muhammad Shamim Khan, addressing the conference, said judiciary plays an important role in structuring and restructuring society.
He said gender-based violence courts were being established in Punjab to protect rights of women and children.
Our correspondent adds from Bahawalpur: Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa addressed High Court Bar Association and District Bar Association Bahawalpur. The LHC Bahawalpur bench bar association and district bar association had hosted a farewell dinner in the honour of chief justice on Saturday night.
He said it's honour for him to address the LHC Bahawalpur bench bar association because Bahawalpur bar was the best bar of the country due its marvellous traditions, respect for judiciary and courtesy.
The CJ said all judges in Pakistan were working in good manner and performing well. He urged judicial officials to dispense justice because that was their professional responsibility. He announced that batches would be planned for professional training of young lawyers of Bahawalpur at Federal Judicial Academy very soon.
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