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September 15, 2020

Justice can’t be delivered if judges coerced: Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed

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September 15, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Gulzar Ahmed Monday said justice could not be delivered and fundamental rights of people could not be protected unless judges were fully independent and under no external pressure.

Addressing the opening ceremony of the new judicial year 2020-21 of the Supreme Court held at the Supreme Court here, the chief justice said the Constitution mandated in its preamble that the independence of the judiciary shall be fully secured.

“Under the Constitution and the law, no one is allowed to undermine the independence of judiciary”, the CJP said, adding that every judge of the superior judiciary was under solemn oath, inter alia, to discharge duties honestly to the best of his ability and faithfully in accordance with the Constitution and the law, and, in all circumstances, to do right to all manner of people, according to law, without fear or favour, affection or ill-will.

“I must say that it is not only a privilege to be a judge but a heavy duty is cast upon judges, even under the oath, to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution, and to not allow their personal interest to influence the official conduct or official decisions,” the chief justice said.

He said since he took over as the Chief Justice of Pakistan, he found that the biggest challenge faced by the judicial system was the backlog. He said in order to reduce the pendency of cases, various decisions were taken.

“These measures have not only proved beneficial for the smooth functioning of the court, but the litigants are also benefiting from the same,” the CJP said. The chief justice said one of the causes for adjournments was that lawyers at time were not able to reach the court in Islamabad on account of their personal reasons, including, the engagements at their own station.

“In order to overcome this problem and to provide expeditious and inexpensive justice to the litigants, the CJP said cases were heard through the e-Court system. Initially, the facility of video-link connectivity was available only at the Branch Registry Karachi, but it was extended to all the Branch Registries.”

He said the video-link facility would continue to benefit lawyers and litigants in saving their time and money and expected that the IT Committee of this Court, headed by Justice Mushir Alam and comprising Hon’ble Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, with the assistance of the IT staff would continue its efforts to improve the e-Court system.

The CJP said due to the outbreak of COVID-19, thefederal as well as provincial governments imposed partial or complete lockdowns and thus it was not possible for the ordinary litigants to file cases within the prescribed limitation period.

“In the circumstances, all the institution branches of the Supreme Court, at the Main Registry Islamabad as well as at the Branch Registries, continued functioning, while observing various safety protocols,” the CJP added.

He said the role of bar in the administration of justice could not be overlooked adding that the bar had always extended its full cooperation and support to the cause of justice. “Most of the learned counsel have responded to our policy of discouraging the unnecessary adjournments in a positive manner,” the CJP said, adding that they come prepared with briefs and never seek adjournments, except for unavoidable circumstances.

The chief justice said the judiciary at all levels shall continue to strive to uphold the supremacy of the Constitution, to foster justice in all circumstances and to ensure rule of law in the country

Earlier, addressing on the occasion, Attorney General Khalid Javed said with the blessings of Almighty they had perhaps escaped relatively unscathed from the pandemic, which shook the world and altered the life as we lived only a few months ago.

“Under the leadership of Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed, the Supreme Court has crafted a delicate balance, said the AG adding that while firmly refusing to be dragged into partisan political issues, which were best left to be resolved through dialogue in Parliament, the Supreme Court timely initiated proceedings in suo motu case number 1 of 2020 when lives and livelihood of millions stood exposed to COVID 19.

The attorney general said the Supreme Court guided the federal and the provincial governments about fulfilling their obligation to protect the lives of the people while also ensuring that the means of livelihood are not shut down completely.

The ceremony was also addressed by Vice Chairman Pakistan Bar Council Abid Saqi and President Supreme Court Bar Association Syed Qalbe-e Hassan.

Addressing the ceremony, Abid Saqi requested the chief justice to look into issues relating to enforced disappearance of persons known for criticizing the government actions and victimization of people on political grounds through the misuse of law.

He said an increasing trend of suppressing the free speech and curbing the independence of media was being witnessed. He requested the chief justice to intervene and protect the rights of the citizens and freedom of press and media, guaranteed under the Constitution.

Similarly, he said the judicial matters pertaining to the high treason case against the former military dictator were pending with the Supreme Court and requested the chief justice to decide upon them as early as possible.

Abid Saqi said the original jurisdiction under Article 184(3) was vested in the Supreme Court adding that the Constitution did not vest powers to initiate proceedings in the office of the chief justice but the power was vested in the Supreme Court, which in terms of Article 176 comprised the chief justice and the judges of the Supreme Court.