Khudayar Mohla –
While addressing at the opening ceremony of the New Judicial Year 2019-2020 of the Supreme Court of Pakistan on Wednesday Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa expressed leadership of the Bar has repeatedly voiced its concerns over receding political space in governance of the state saying such concerns must not be ignored.
At the outset of the ceremony, Chief Justice said, “On my own behalf and also on behalf of all my brother Judges I extend a warm welcome to all of you at this opening ceremony of the New Judicial Year 2019-2020. Such a ceremony has now become an annual event which provides us an opportunity to take stock of our performance during the last judicial year and to plan for improvements in the future. Let me get down to business straightaway”.
According to the statistics provided by the Law & Justice Commission of Pakistan there were in all about 1.81 Million cases pending before all the Courts and Tribunals in the country at the beginning of the last judicial year and the total number of cases pending in the country at all levels at present is about 1.78 Million which marks a noticeable decrease in the number of pending cases despite institution of about 3.65 Million fresh cases during this period.
This means that about 3.68 Million cases were decided by about 3,100 Judges and Magistrates in the country in a period of one year and this outstanding performance speaks volumes about the hard work and dedication of the members of the judiciary at all levels. Anybody who unknowingly criticises the judiciary of this country for not delivering or for not doing enough may just look at these figures and reconsider his views.
At the commencement of the last judicial year there were 37,933 cases pending before this Court. I have been informed by the Office that at the time of change of guards on the 18th of January this year the total number of cases pending before this Court had swelled to about 40,611.
During the last judicial year a total of 19,751 new cases were filed before this Court swelling the total number of cases to be dealt with to 57,684. At the end of the last week the total pendency of cases before this Court was 41,702. The Office has informed that as many as 16,131 cases were decided by 17 Judges of this Court during the last judicial year.
All this was made possible because of the untiring efforts made by the Judges of this Court who have been working beyond the call of duty and have been burning their midnight oil besides sacrificing their private and family time. Let me clarify here that the above mentioned number of pending cases before this Court may actually be misleading. If in one case five different parties to the same case file separate petitions or appeals before this Court against the same judgment of the High Court the Office of this Court assigns five different numbers to all such five petitions or appeals whereas in actuality all those five numbers are relevant to one and the same case. Looked at from this angle if the Office were to count the actual number of cases presently pending before this Court then the number of such cases at this point of time is 29,179 only.
I am very happy to announce that the backlog of thousands of criminal appeals pending before this Court since the year 1994 onwards has been completely wiped out and by the end of the last week only 138 such appeals were pending which too are actively being attended to. The details are that only 41 criminal appeals are presently pending at the Principal Seat at Islamabad, 68 appeals at the Branch Registry Lahore, 29 appeals at the Branch Registry Peshawar, zero appeals at the Branch Registry Karachi and zero appeals at the Branch Registry Quetta.
We hope that within the next few weeks we shall, In Shaa Allah, achieve zero pendency of criminal appeals in this Court as a whole which shall be an achievement judges, lawyers and litigants usually only dream of.
I must acknowledge that the Judges of this Court mainly dealing with criminal cases, particularly Hon’ble Justice (Retired) Dost Muhammad Khan, Hon’ble Justice Manzoor Ahmad Malik and Hon’ble Justice Sardar Tariq Masood, have worked very hard for accomplishing this feat. We are grateful to the learned members of the Bar for their full and ungrudging cooperation in achievement of such a historic and unprecedented success in this field.
After crossing that milestone we have plans for launching similar concerted efforts for systematically reducing and eliminating the backlog of cases in the other categories of cases as well.
In a first of its kind in the history of the Constitutional and Supreme Courts in the entire world the Supreme Court of Pakistan had started the E-Court system in the later half of the last judicial year. Through this system the Principal Seat and all the Branch Registries of this Court have been connected through application of the latest video-link connectivity.
It is a ground breaking initiative which has already started benefiting the lawyers as well as litigants by making the judicial system more responsive to the needs of the people approaching this Court for redressal of their grievances. Millions of Rupees spent on the Judges and staff touring different Branch Registries, on lawyers commuting between cities and by litigants toiling all the way and bearing the brunt of the expenses are being saved through this system every week. Such a step taken by this Court is a major breakthrough in discharge of its constitutional responsibility of providing expeditious and inexpensive justice. We expect that this initiative shall soon be replicated in other courts of the country as well.
I must thank the Information Technology (IT) Committee of this Court, headed by Hon’ble Justice Mushir Alam with Hon’ble Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah as its Member, and the IT staff of this Court as well as the team of the National Database Registering Authority (NADRA) for their tireless efforts made in breaking this new ground.
Another major initiative taken by this Court in the last judicial year was commissioning of a state of the art Research Centre which shall provide research facilities of international standards to all the judicial officers in the country on click of a button.
Three Judges of this Court and ten research officers, all serving Civil Judges selected from the entire country, had recently visited and received training at various renowned legal research centres in the United States of America and a world famous search engine has already been installed in the said research centre of this Court.
We are confident that establishing this research centre is going to prove a game changer in the days to come. The interest taken and the efforts made by Hon’ble Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah in the matter must be acknowledged and appreciated.
Artificial Intelligence is yet another field in which this Court has already decided to enter and active consultations are already afoot with different expert bodies in that regard. Through this leap into the future any judge in the country shall be able to feed the facts of a case into a computer programme and obtain a possible result of the case on the basis of all the past decisions of the courts on the subject and then to assess whether he is proceeding on the right lines or not.
If the result projected by the computer is the same which the judge is himself contemplating then he shall feel reassured but if he is minded to decide differently then he shall become careful and shall try to distinguish the given case from the past precedents. Artificial Intelligence is the future of the world and we have decided to stay current rather than remaining stuck in the pedantic past.
One of the contentious issues raised and discussed by the legal community and the civil society for some time is fixing of parameters and procedure for suo motu exercise of this Court’s jurisdiction under Article 184(3) of the Constitution.
The scope of this Court’s jurisdiction under the said Article of the Constitution is a matter of judicial interpretation and a plethora of case-law already exists on the subject but suo motu initiation of proceedings under that Article of the Constitution is a matter of procedure and the same is yet to be conclusively determined.
In one of the Full Court Meetings held in the last judicial year the Judges of this Court had discussed different aspects of this issue in some depth and in the next Full Court Meeting a draft is likely to be presented and discussed proposing a suitable amendment of the relevant part of the Supreme Court Rules, 1980 and determining how a suo motu notice may be taken of a matter by the Court. I am confident that the said issue shall be settled soon bringing consistency of practice and eliminating arbitrariness and whimsicality in the matter.
It is our endeavour that this Court should keep on improving not only in its productivity and substance but also in all its incidental aspects as well. Since the beginning of this calendar year the façade of the courtrooms of this Court has been uplifted by affixing national and Court flags and emblem of the Court in every courtroom throughout the country, uniform typing style and font have been introduced for all orders and judgments of the Court, the rest house for the Judges at Murree and the rest house for retired Judges in the Judges Enclave in Islamabad have been upgraded in facilities and décor and the lawns in this courthouse at Islamabad are being improved to match in miniature scale some beautiful gardens in Europe.
A pleasant environment and ambience lifts the spirit and mood to some extent and we understand that through these small and symbolic measures a depressed litigant, a nervous lawyer or a tired Judge may feel a little better while entering this courthouse!
As far as the High Courts in the country are concerned they are also reeling under the pressure of huge backlogs and a huge influx of fresh cases being filed on a daily basis. I have had the privilege of visiting different High Courts and discussing with their Chief Justices and Judges different strategies of dealing with the workload in a more efficient and systematic manner. I have found that things have already started improving in the High Courts as well but the improvements and their pace could have been more noticeable and faster.
Disposition of criminal cases has already improved in the High Courts and Special Benches have already been constituted for expeditious decision of banking, tax and revenue cases.
The trial courts are generally considered to be the weakest link in the judicial hierarchy in the country and the usual and long delays in conclusion of civil and criminal trials has been considered to be a bane or malady which is incurable.
In the past many high-powered Commissions were constituted for suggesting improvements in the area but to no significant avail. However, during the last judicial year the National Judicial (Policy Making) Committee (NJPMC) comprising of all the Chief Justices in the country approved and launched the Expeditious Justice Initiative (EJI) which has worked wonders in this field.
The first phase of this Initiative was launched in the area of criminal trials and the Initiative has proved so successful that trials of criminal cases which were previously concluded in three to four years are now being completed in three to four days and all this has been achieved without any change of law or procedure and without any extra expense.
The law, the procedure, the judges and the lawyers are the same but suddenly they have all started delivering only because some bottlenecks in the process have been attended to and all possibilities of delay have been eliminated through some administrative steps.
Under this Initiative Model Criminal Trial Courts were established in all the 116 Districts in the country and initially one serving Sessions Judge or an Additional Sessions Judge was designated to preside over such courts in each District and later on more judges were designated as such in every nook and corner of the country.
Subsequently the Initiative was expanded and Model Trial Magistrates Courts and Model Civil Appellate Courts were also established. Let me present to you a brief resume of the performance of such Model Courts since their establishment on 1st April, 2019 and the results will speak for themselves:
*In only 127 working days the Model Criminal Trial Courts have conducted and concluded trials of 13,610 cases of murder and narcotics and have recorded statements of 60,151 witnesses.
*In 11 Districts in the country the number of murder and narcotics cases awaiting trial is zero and in 6 other Districts the pendency of such trials is in single digit.
*Model Trial Magistrates Courts have conducted and concluded trials of 4,084 cases in just 44 working days and have recorded statements of 11,631 witnesses.
*Model Civil Appellate Courts have decided 7,122 appeals and revision petitions in only 44 working days.
It is important to mention here that after my consultations with the senior representatives of the Bar from the entire country the NJPMC had empowered the Pakistan Bar Council to set up committees of lawyers to report about any violation of law or procedure being committed by the Model Courts but so far not a single complaint has been received from anywhere alleging that any procedure is being scuttled or violated or justice is being trumped in such courts by speed.
I may add here that in the next phase of the Expeditious Justice Initiative Model Family Courts and Model Rent Courts are being established in every District of the country. Under this Initiative Gender-based Violence Courts have also been established throughout the country and about one hundred judges of trial courts have already been imparted training in that field with the assistance of the Asian Development Bank for which we are grateful.
This Expeditious Justice Initiative and the Model Courts established thereunder are generally being acknowledged as a silent revolution taking place in our justice sector and it is already catching attention internationally.
Some neighbouring countries facing similar difficulties as our trial courts have shown interest in understanding how such a significant success can be achieved in this area in such a short span of time and that too without any change of law or procedure and also without any extra expense.
The World Bank has already organized a meeting at Washington in the beginning of November this year wherein about 40 Chief Justices of different countries shall hear from this Court about this Initiative and shall deliberate upon how to improve the justice sectors in their own countries.
Moving on to a different field, it was felt by this Court that false testimonies and perjuries being committed in giving of evidence on oath, particularly in criminal cases, had destroyed the very fabric of dispensation of justice in the country and, therefore, false witnesses were to be dealt with an iron hand.
In order to keep the stream of justice unpolluted and unsullied this Court decided through a judgment that the principle Falsus in Uno, Falsus in Omnibus is to be applied in our judicial dispensation with full force and a witness found to be lying on one material aspect is to be disbelieved on all other aspects of the case. After that judgment more than a dozen witnesses found testifying falsely in cases of murder have already been ordered to be tried for committing perjury.
It was also felt by this Court that no meaningful reforms can be introduced in the criminal justice sector unless the police in the country are also reformed.
For this purpose a Police Reforms Committee (PRC) was constituted under the umbrella of the Law & Justice Commission of Pakistan with the Chief Justice of Pakistan as its chairman and all the serving Inspectors-General of Police in the country and some reputedly honest and competent retired Inspectors-General of Police as its members.
The Police Reforms Committee has held many meetings during the last judicial year, it has already come up with a comprehensive report on how to reform the police service and it has also implemented two very significant initiatives which have already started showing positive results. It was decided by the Committee to set up the office of Superintendent of Police (Complaints) in every District of the country so that people having grievances against the working of the local police should have a forum available within the police department to approach for redressal of their grievances instead of approaching a court of law in that regard straightaway.
According to the statistics available with the Law & Justice Commission of Pakistan in the last few months 96,026 aggrieved persons have approached the office of Superintendent of Police (Complaints) of their District and the grievances of 89,609 such persons have satisfactorily been redressed by that forum.
The statistics also show that establishment of such forum of internal accountability within the police department has led to 39.7 % reduction in filing of such complaints before the District Judiciary in the country under section 22-A(6), Cr.P.C. and 14.2 % reduction in institution of writ petitions in this field in the High Courts of the country.
If this forum had not been established by the Police Reforms Committee then the above mentioned 89,609 cases would have been filed before the courts of this country which are already overburdened with work.
The other step taken and implemented by the Police Reforms Committee during the last judicial year has been establishment of Assessment Committees at the District level throughout the country. Such committees assess and evaluate all those criminal cases of the relevant District in which the accused persons had been acquitted by the courts or in which the accused persons had been admitted to bail.
The causes of acquittal or admission to bail in such cases are reported by the committee to the Superintendent of Police (Investigation) of the District who then instructs all the investigating officers in the District not to commit the same mistakes in future cases.
We expect that this step shall go a long way in reducing the ratio of acquittals and enhancing the ratio of convictions in criminal cases in the days to come. The next initiative of the Police Reforms Committee already in the pipeline is in the field of improving the quality of investigation of criminal cases.
Some other initiatives being contemplated by the Police Reforms Committee include improvement in urban policing, effectiveness of anti-terrorism laws, police accountability and integration of the criminal justice system.
We greatly appreciate the level of commitment displayed by the serving and retired Inspectors-General of Police who are members of the Police Reforms Committee and also acknowledge their determination to change the image of the police and to transform the same from a colonial repressive force to a people friendly and service oriented institution. Indeed, the police are yet to travel a long distance in that direction but we know that the journey has already begun.
As already mentioned above, the National Judicial (Policy Making) Committee (NJPMC) comprises of all the Chief Justices in the country and after a long interval the said Committee has been fully activated during the last judicial year.
The EJI launched by this Committee, establishment of model trial and appellate courts in the entire country and also establishment of Gender-based Violence Courts throughout the country by this Committee have proved to be a great success. This Committee is already working on introducing modern technology in the judicial system of the country through every means possible.
During the previous judicial year the NJPMC approved the recommendations of the National Judicial Automation Committee (NJAC) to establish the National Judicial Automation Unit (NJAU) under the NJAC.
In consultation with the High Courts and the concerned Ministries and Departments a concept paper has been prepared which would be further deliberated upon in meetings with the other relevant departments for finalization.
It has already been decided that a Model Smart IT Court is to be set up in the Islamabad High Court. In order to bring the under-developed Districts in the legal field at par with the other more developed Districts an amount of Rs. 80.52 Million has been released from the Access to Justice Development Fund to provide amenities, infrastructure and other court related facilities to the areas and Districts notified as Under-Developed Regions.
The Law & Justice Commission of Pakistan (LJCP) has also remained quite active during the last judicial year and it has provided commendable support to the Police Reforms Committee and to implementation of its decisions and initiatives.
The Commission has so far approved as many as 138 reports on law reforms and has submitted the same before the Federal and Provincial Governments. Out of the said reports a total of 41 have been implemented in full, 26 have been implemented in part and 69 remain unimplemented.
Apart from that the Commission has also submitted recommendations before the Federal and Provincial Governments suggesting a total of 14 legislative reforms, 105 administrative reforms and 22 policy reforms some of which suggestions have already been fully or partly implemented by the respective governments while others remain unimplemented.
The Commission has also provided valuable support to this Court in determination of some complex cases. Under the auspices of the Law & Justice Commission of Pakistan a two-day workshop on creating a Water Secure Pakistan was conducted on 19th and 20th October, 2018 at Islamabad wherein national and international Water Law and Water Resource Management experts and other experts presented papers in five thematic groups on different topics including legal aspects of Indus basin water, construction and financing of dams and reservoirs, ground water, water recharge and water pricing and water governance and management. At the end of that workshop the Islamabad Declaration 2018 was issued.
The Federal Judicial Academy (FJA) is one of the most active bodies of judicial education in the entire region and during the last judicial year the academy has kept on performing to its optimum capacity and within the resources available to it.
During the said period it conducted 27 training programmes and workshops in addition to 12 continuous programmes and workshops in which as many as 1053 persons were trained. It is important to mention here that apart from training judicial officers of different categories and court staff the academy also imparted training to prosecutors at the request of the prosecution departments, to investigators at the request of the Police Reforms Committee and also to a large number of young lawyers of different Provinces and the Islamabad Capital Territory at my request. The young lawyers receiving training at the academy were selected by their respective Bar Councils and Bar Associations. The enthusiasm of such young lawyers was worth watching and I had the privilege of witnessing the same at the time of their passing out and certificate awarding ceremonies.
With its new Strategic Plan (2018-2021) the FJA underwent restructuring and moved towards a Centre of Excellence in judicial education. A highly automated Research and Publication Wing has been established at the academy where the first ever research cycle is in progress.
Training methodology has been improved and some high profile courses on leadership and management and critical thinking have been introduced for leadership of the District judiciary. As already mentioned above, the academy has embarked upon the first ever Continuing Legal Education Package for members of the Bar as a part of its Professional Development Programme.
The back up support provided by the Federal Judicial Academy to the EJI and functioning of the Model Courts of different categories throughout the country has been exemplary and beyond the call of duty for which we owe a debt of gratitude to it.
The Judicial Commission of Pakistan is a constitutional body tasked with making recommendations to the Parliamentary Committee for appointment of Judges of the Supreme Court, the Chief Justices and Judges of the Federal Shariat Court and of the High Courts.
During the last judicial year the Commission held as many as 17 meetings and recommended one retired Judge of a High Court for appointment as a Judge of this Court. The Commission also recommended appointment of a Chief Justice and an Alim Judge of the Federal Shariat Court and four Chief Justices of different High Courts.
The Commission further recommended 15 Additional Judges of different High Courts for confirmation and appointment as Judges of those High Courts and 20 others were recommended for appointment as Additional Judges of different High Courts.
Over all 65 persons were considered for such appointments but 4 out of them were dropped and the nominations of 21 were withdrawn by the respective Chief Justices of the High Courts. Due to this system of judicial appointments being new there were some teething problems and initial hiccups vis-à-vis the working relationship between the Judicial Commission and the Parliamentary Committee but all such issues now stand ironed out and the system is presently functioning harmoniously with an understanding that due respect is to be extended to the respective opinions of the two bodies and the views of each body are to be honoured as far as possible and practicable.
I may add that the representatives of the Bar have been demanding for some time a greater say of lawyers in the matter of appointment of Judges of the senior judiciary. A committee constituted by the Judicial Commission of Pakistan for discussing some proposed amendments to the relevant Rules for that purpose has not been able to meet so far because of numerous factors including frequent change of composition of the committee due to retirement of its different members from the Bench and the Bar. An effort shall be made to reconstitute that committee at the earliest so that it may meet and deliberate upon the matter.
The Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) is mandated by the Constitution to inquire into conduct of Judges of the Superior Judiciary and I must say that the job to be performed in that regard is the most unpleasant job that its Chairman and Members are to perform in their entire judicial careers.
Nonetheless, it is a constitutional duty they cannot refuse to perform. The Constitution empowers the President to direct the Council to inquire into the conduct of a Judge and the Council cannot disregard such a constitutionally mandated direction and it must inquire as directed.
It, however, goes without saying that such a direction to inquire does not, and cannot, control the opinion to be formed by the Council after inquiring into the matter. On the other hand the Council’s hands are freer in the matter of holding an inquiry or not as far as complaints or information received against a Judge from any other source are concerned and in such cases the Council can determine at the initial stages to file/dismiss a complaint/information while deciding that the matter is not worth holding any inquiry.
Be that as it may, the whole exercise in either case has to be a very sober and dignified exercise keeping in view the senior and respectable positions of the Judges inquiring into a matter and the exalted positions of the Judges whose conduct is to be looked into.
Nothing but maturity, sobriety and grace is to be expected in the matter from all concerned. I may take this opportunity to inform you in the broadest terms that the complaints/information received by the Council from the general public are mostly about some observations made or conduct displayed by a Judge during the course of hearing of a case or in respect of a decision which has gone against a party.
Most of such complaints/information are frivolous or a result of frustration on losing a case or in respect of matters against which judicial remedies are available against the decision rendered and after following the prescribed procedure the Council, more often than not, files/dismisses such complaints/information without further ado or it files/dismisses them after obtaining an initial response to the allegations from the respondent-Judge or after obtaining his reply to the show cause notice.
In such cases ordinarily the nature of the allegations levelled against the Judge or the proceedings undertaken by the Council are not shared with the public at large primarily to protect the prestige, honour and dignity of the concerned Judge as well as the image of the judiciary as an institution.
Under the relevant Procedure, as interpreted by this Court in some judgments, the decision to disclose any information about the matter to the public lies with the Council and not with a party or the public at large and this approach is also based upon sound public policy.
As many as 56 privately instituted complaints / information were pending before the Supreme Judicial Council at the start of the last judicial year in September, 2018. During the last judicial year a total of 102 more complaints/information were filed before the Council.
A total of 149 of such complaints/information were duly processed and disposed of by the Council during the last judicial year and at present only 9 complaints/references are pending before the Council including two References filed by the President. In 3 out of the 4 complaints/information instituted before filing of the Presidential References different steps were already being taken in terms of the prescribed procedure before the Presidential References were filed and in the 4th such complaint/information proceedings of the Council had already been stopped because of pendency of the same matter/issue before the Supreme Court on its judicial side.
As regards the two Presidential References different steps have already been taken by the Council and in the remaining 3 complaints/information received by the Council after filing of the Presidential References some progress has already been made in terms of the requisite procedure.
These details have been shared by me with you in the broadest terms in order to quell any misgiving or apprehension entertained in that regard by any quarter. The data shared with you would show that the Council is a body which remains quite active throughout the year but, for obvious reasons, it operates silently.
I would only add in this respect that the Chairman and Members of the Supreme Judicial Council are committed to their oath of office, they work with an unflinching resolve to proceed in all matters “without fear or favour, affection or ill-will” and nobody should expect anything from them other than justice according to law”.
During the last judicial year many Judges of this Court and of the High Courts have attended conferences, seminars and symposia in many countries of the world. Apart from educating themselves about whatever new is happening in the justice sectors of different countries they have made Pakistan’s presence felt at the world’s stage and have made their contribution towards taking Pakistan out of its contrived international isolation.
While participating in such international events our Judges have always made their mark and have improved the country’s image in the international community. In furtherance of the same vision we, in collaboration with the Pakistan Chapter of SAARCLAW, are planning to hold a SAARCLAW Conference in Islamabad next month which conference is likely to be attended by the Chief Justices, Judges, lawyers and academics, etc. from every nook and corner of the SAARC region besides many other dignitaries hailing from different parts of the world.
In the last judicial year Hon’ble Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar and Hon’ble Justice Sh. Azmat Saeed laid down the robes of their offices while Hon’ble Justice Qazi Muhammad Amin Ahmed was appointed as a Judge of this Court. Qazi Sahib’s appointment has added value to this Court. Sheikh Sahib’s expertise shall be missed by the Court for a long time. During Mian Sahib’s tenure as the Chief Justice this Court had decided many cases of great significance. It has indeed been difficult for me to fit into his big shoes.
The importance and significance of the role of the Bar in administration of justice cannot be overstated. The Bar has always extended its full cooperation and support to the causes of justice espoused by this Court.
Many senior members of the Bar of this Court are legends in their lifetime, some of those in their middle ages are heroes and leaders of the profession besides being experts in the professional field and a significant part of the younger generation of lawyers is so bright that we do not have to worry about the future of the legal profession in this country.
There are, however, some elements in the legal profession, forming a very small minority, who sometimes bring bad name to the noble profession but we expect that serious and effective steps shall be taken by the disciplinary bodies of the Bar to punish such elements and to curb their nefarious activities.
Let me utilize this opportunity to make it very clear that the Bench and the Bar stand fully committed to constitutionalism, rule of law and democracy and any attempt made from any quarter to destroy or damage these ideals and principles or to build inroads into them shall be resisted by the Bench and the Bar together with fullest might.
In recent times the leadership of the Bar has repeatedly voiced its concerns over receding political space in governance of the State and such concerns must not be ignored. As an important and independent Organ of the State responsible for safeguarding the constitutional ethos of the country we feel that such loss of political space in governance of the State may not augur well for the future of the country as a constitutional democracy.
We as a relevant Organ of the State also feel that the growing perception that the process of accountability being pursued in the country at present is lopsided and is a part of political engineering is a dangerous perception and some remedial steps need to be taken urgently so that the process does not lose credibility. Recovery of stolen wealth of the citizenry is a noble cause and it must be legitimately and legally pursued where it is due but if in the process the constitutional and legal morality of the society and the recognized standards of fairness and impartiality are compromised then retrieval of the lost constitutional and legal morality may pose an even bigger challenge to the society at large in the days to come.
It may not be lost sight of that while talking of social and economic justice the Objectives Resolution of 1949 and the Preamble to the Constitution also speak of political justice. Voices being raised about muzzling of the print and electronic media and suppression of dissent are also disturbing. It must be appreciated by all concerned that a voice suppressed or an opinion curbed generates frustration, frustration gives rise to discontent and increasing discontent poses a serious threat to the democratic system itself.
Constitutionally guaranteed rights of citizens ought never to be compromised for the sake of short-term political or governance advantages. Democracy requires a long-term approach and tolerance for dissent and without that the system plunges into authoritarianism and we have witnessed plenty of it in the past with disastrous consequences.
Before I conclude I must also refer to some of the disappointments we have faced during the last judicial year. On the 17th of January this year, while speaking during the farewell Reference held in honour of the outgoing Chief Justice of Pakistan, I had urged the Executive and the Legislature to consider restructuring of the judicial system of the country by introducing a three-tier system, doing away with special courts and repealing or amending some unnecessary and problematic laws but unfortunately nothing has been done in those areas so far. Even my suggestion regarding holding of an inter-institutional dialogue for sorting out irritants within the Organs and institutions of the State has not received any consideration and the serious issue of the missing persons also still haunts us all. I hope that after the Executive and the Legislature are through with the pressing issues engaging their attention at present the suggestions made in the above mentioned regards shall receive proper attention.
In the end I must say that I am aware that a section of the society is unhappy over the fact that in the last few months this Court has not shown much interest in exhibiting judicial activism and has been slow in taking suo motu action over issues where that section of the society so demanded.
That section of the society may remember that only a few months ago the same section of the society was highly critical of such an enterprise. We realize that criticism of this Court over exercising restraint in some controversial and contentious matters may be far safer and less harmful than its criticism over imprudent and undue interventions in such matters.
The said section of the society may also appreciate that taking of suo motu action by this Court on the demand of some persons may constitute dictated exercise of jurisdiction whereas that very section otherwise believes that this Court should never act at the bidding or demand of any outsider because acting on that basis militates against independence of this Court.
It is said that “The urge to save humanity is almost always a false face for the urge to rule it” (H. L. Mencken). We have no such urge and we are committed to perform only that role which the Constitution and the law mandate for us. I have always maintained that this Court is open to all and sundry and anybody interested in activating the judicial process of this Court may take the trouble of filing a petition before the Court which shall be heard and the purpose shall be served.
There are, however, many exceptions to this but it is for the Court to determine and not for an outsider to demand that a matter may be treated as exceptional. In my above mentioned speech during the farewell Reference held in honour of the outgoing Chief Justice of Pakistan I had observed that “Suo motu exercise of this Court’s jurisdiction under Article 184(3) of the Constitution shall be exercised very sparingly and only in respect of larger issues of national importance where either there is no other adequate or efficacious remedy available or the available constitutional or legal remedies are ineffective or are rendered incapacitated.”
Apart from that a suo motu notice taken on a demand of somebody else may not be suo motu and would be a contradiction in terms. This Court shall take suo motu notice of a matter only when it feels the necessity or utility for it and not when it is coaxed in that regard by outsiders. Be that as it may, at present this Court is practising judicial activism of a different kind.
Instead of judicial activism it is practising active judicialism. It is taking measures to improve and activate the judicial sector in many ways. It has decided to put its own house in order first and the steps taken by this Court during the last judicial year, the details of which have been mentioned above, would confirm that serious, earnest and concerted efforts are already afoot in that direction and many noticeable successes have already been achieved by us in those efforts.
With God’s grace and cooperation of all the stakeholders in the justice sector we have managed to safely steer the ship of this Court from stormy and tempestuous waters to calm and tranquil waters, we expect a smooth sailing ahead and would like to consolidate our successes and then to build on them for discharging our constitutional role in a most befitting manner, the Chief Justice concluded.
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