Friday September 29, 2023

Judiciary can’t address all issues, political leaders should hold dialogue: CJP

Judges are ready and willing to defend Constitution from any and all transgressions, says CJP

September 24, 2022
Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial. — Supreme Court of Pakistan website
Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial. — Supreme Court of Pakistan website

ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan Umer Ata Bandial Friday said that upholding the supremacy of the Constitution was not the responsibility of the judiciary only but also of other organs of the state, stakeholders in the justice system and the people of Pakistan.

Addressing the inaugural session of a two-day 9th International Judicial Conference on the role of the judiciary in maintaining the rule of law and upholding the supremacy of Constitution at the Supreme Court, the Chief Justice said that judges were ready and willing to defend the Constitution from any and all transgressions. “The judiciary is conscious that it can dispense justice based on the principle of the rule of law only by giving persistent sanctity and respect to the Constitution,” he added.

The Supreme Court, he maintained, has delivered landmark judgments to reinforce other dimensions of the rule of law and in this respect it has come a long way to become a champion for the cause of democracy in the country. Recently, he added, the court had to intervene after the president ordered the dissolution of the National Assembly in April on the advice of the-then prime minister. “The court found the dissolution to be unconstitutional and ordered that the National Assembly be restored for the formation of a parliamentary government in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution,” he said, adding that it was because the Constitution bars the dissolution of the National Assembly during the pendency of a no-confidence motion against the prime minister.

“As a result of this decision, the detailed reasons for which were given in the case of Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians Vs. Federation of Pakistan (PLD 2022 SC 574), the country witnessed, for the first time since 1973 when our present Constitution was enacted, a peaceful transition of executive power within one term of the National Assembly,” he observed.

Subsequently, he added, the then deputy speaker of the Punjab Assembly issued a ruling contrary to the provisions of the Constitution on July 22 and the court again intervened to render a correct interpretation of the Constitution. “Nevertheless, regardless of the efforts of the court to strengthen democracy in the country, progress can only be made if all political parties come together to follow the established democratic practices and perform their respective roles in the parliament as specified under the Constitution,” he added.

The Chief Justice said, “A purely political impasse does not have legal solutions but it can only be resolved through dialogue among political leaders and their parties. The judiciary has no role in breaking a political deadlock as with other citizens it is our sincere hope that the political leadership of the country shall take necessary corrective action and confidence building measures with public and national interest as their foremost consideration.”

“In the wake of recent floods which have ravaged around one-third of the country and displaced millions of people, most of whom already belong to vulnerable segments of society, the decision of the court is a wake-up call to the legislature and executive to take immediate action to mitigate the pernicious effects of climate change on the people,” the Chief Justice said.

Addressing the conference, Islamabad High Court Chief Justice Athar Minallah said that judges in the past, as an institution, had sided with usurpers that were all-powerful and decided against them only mostly when they had fallen out of favour or walked into the sunset. “We all believe that we abide by the oath we take every day while in office. But today we have to evaluate how a bystander might perceive and evaluate our success in upholding the rule of law and supremacy of the Constitution,” he observed.

The IHC Chief Justice said that they had sent an elected prime minister to the gallows and “it is ironic that we don’t accept the judgment as a precedent.” He said that the disqualification of chosen representatives under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution had raised questions but such a high standard of scrutiny had never been applied to un-elected usurpers and other public office holders.

“We decided Asma Jillani, Asghar Khan and Dharna cases wherein we explained that representative democracy was the foundation of the scheme of our Constitution, while reiterating and emphasising that under provisions of the Constitution, legal authority and legitimacy flows from the people and their representatives and not from un-elected and unrepresentative institutions,” he elaborated.

“History will judge us for how we refused to sit in judgment over those who trampled upon the Constitution. We must hope and resolve that the manner in which we discharge our responsibilities is such that we redeem ourselves and rise to the expectations that framers who scripted the Constitution had from the judiciary, when they declared the judiciary to be an independent pillar of the state and endowed it with the responsibility to uphold and enforce the social contract between the citizen and the state,” he maintained.

He said, “The independence of judiciary that we jealously guard is for the benefit of the average citizen that relies on us to uphold the promise of legal equality made to them by the Constitution against an all-powerful state and elites that control the state. When we exercise public authority to uphold our dignity, we must remember that the power is meant to serve public interest and not our own.” The session was also addressed by Chief Justices of the Federal Shariat Court, Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Supreme Appellate Court, Gilgit-Baltistan.