A Proud Legacy

The re­tir­ing chief jus­tice has left in­deli­ble foot­prints on the legacy of the su­pe­rior ju­di­ciary in Pak­istan.

Southasia - - COVER STORY -

With the re­tire­ment of Chief Jus­tice Iftikhar Mo­ham­mad Chaudhry ended a glo­ri­ous epoch in the an­nals of Pak­istan’s ju­di­ciary. Ap­pointed on June 30, 2005 to the post, Chaudhry was not only the long­est-serv­ing chief jus­tice of the Supreme Court but also the youngest and most col­or­ful one.

Born on De­cem­ber 12, 1948, he

By S.G. Ji­la­nee joined the bar in 1974. In 1976, he was en­rolled as ad­vo­cate of the high court and in 1985 as an ad­vo­cate of the Supreme Court. In 1989 he was ap­pointed ad­vo­cate gen­eral of Balochis­tan, be­came ad­di­tional judge of the Balochis­tan High Court in 1990 and be­came its chief jus­tice in April 1999.

On Fe­bru­ary 4, 2000 he was nom­i­nated as the jus­tice of the Supreme Court of Pak­istan. Af­ter the procla­ma­tion of the Pro­vi­sional Con­sti­tu­tional Or­der (PCO) in Jan­uary 2000, when four judges re­signed af­ter re­fus­ing to take oath under the PCO, Pres­i­dent Mushar­raf ap­pointed other judges, in­clud­ing Chaudhry, to the re­or­ga­nized Supreme Court. This Supreme Court le­git­imized Mushar­raf’s

ex­tra-con­sti­tu­tional acts.

But af­ter be­com­ing chief jus­tice in 2005, Chaudhry changed. He be­came in­de­pen­dent and as­sertive. A con­spir­acy was there­fore hatched to re­move him to en­sure a smooth sail­ing for Mushar­raf. Ac­cord­ingly, com­plaints “for vi­o­lat­ing the norms of ju­di­cial pro­pri­ety, cor­rup­tion, seek­ing fa­vors and mis­be­hav­ing with se­nior lawyers,” with Ad­vo­cate Naeem Bokhari in the vanguard, be­gan to air against him, though none was filed be­fore any com­pe­tent au­thor­ity.

On the ba­sis of these com­plaints, Mushar­raf sus­pended Chaudhry on March 9, 2007 for mis­con­duct, sum­moned him to the Army House and asked him to re­sign. But Chaudhry was no Mu­nir. So, in­stead of kow­tow­ing, he de­fied Mushar­raf and re­fused, where­upon Mushar­raf filed a ref­er­ence to the Supreme Ju­di­cial Coun­cil (SJC) against Chaudhry.

Sens­ing that the judges of the SJC would fol­low Mushar­raf’s dic­ta­tion, Chaudhry re­fused to have his case heard in the SJC. In­stead, he chal­lenged the al­le­ga­tions in the Supreme Court of Pak­istan. On July 20, 2007, a thir­teen-mem­ber bench of the Supreme Court va­cated the or­der of his sus­pen­sion and re­in­stated him to his po­si­tion as chief jus­tice.

On Novem­ber 3, 2007, Gen­eral Mushar­raf de­clared a state of emer­gency sus­pend­ing the con­sti­tu­tion and par­lia­ment. He put all the judges of the Supreme Court under house ar­rest, ac­cus­ing them of vi­o­lat­ing Ar­ti­cle 209 of the Con­sti­tu­tion of 1973.

The house ar­rest was lifted on March 24, 2008 by the newly elected Prime Min­is­ter, Syed Yousuf Raza Gi­lani. But he did not re­store Chaudhry as CJ un­til March 16, 2009 when the long march by the lawyers ag­i­tat­ing for Chaudhry’s re­in­state­ment en­tered Is­lam­abad.

Back in the sad­dle, Iftikhar Chaudhry al­most over­hauled the “sys­tem” by re­lent­less action against evil-do­ers. He used his suo moto pow­ers as no­body had done be­fore, prin­ci­pally, to curb cor­rup­tion, vi­o­la­tion of women’s rights and hu­man rights, be­sides of­fer­ing re­lief to trade unions in some cases.

Just one suo moto action on the con­tro­ver­sial rental power project case led to the re­turn of sev­eral bil­lion ru­pees to the na­tional kitty. Suo moto no­tices of fi­nan­cial ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties in the NICL and the EOBI and of cor­rup­tion in the ar­range­ments for Hajj brought some holy cows to book. A sim­i­lar bold ini­tia­tive en­abled the Cap­i­tal De­vel­op­ment Au­thor­ity (CDA) to re­cover thou­sands of canals of land worth bil­lions of ru­pees from the il­le­gal oc­cu­pa­tion of mafias.

Chaudhry re­lent­lessly tried to rein in the ex­ec­u­tive and po­lit­i­cal lead­ers who ran amuck with power. For, ex­am­ple, when Wa­heeda Shah, a leader of Pak­istan Peo­ple’s Party (PPP), slapped a pre­sid­ing of­fi­cer dur­ing elec­tions, he took suo moto no­tice of the event and dis­qual­i­fied Shah.

Among other fa­mous cases in which he took suo moto no­tice were the re­cov­ery of liquor from TV ac­tress Atiqa Odho at an air­port, graft al­le­ga­tions against his son Ar­salan Iftikhar, bring­ing the pow­er­ful mur­der­ers of Shahzeb and a Rangers’ sol­dier who killed Sar­faraz Shah in broad day­light in Karachi, be­fore the court.

Chaudhry never al­lowed any ex­tra­ne­ous con­sid­er­a­tion to cloud his judg­ment. He had no hes­i­ta­tion in send­ing Yousuf Raza Gi­lani pack­ing when the lat­ter de­fied the Supreme Court’s or­der to write to the Swiss au­thor­i­ties to re­open the in­ves­ti­ga­tion against Asif Zardari. He was also the first one to take even the army to task for trans­gress­ing its pow­ers.

Among his his­toric ac­tions were sus­pen­sion of the pri­va­ti­za­tion of the Pak­istan Steel Mills (PSM) on the plea of the PSM work­ers’ union and nul­li­fy­ing the Na­tional Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Or­di­nance (NRO) that had sought to grant blan­ket amnesty to cor­rupt po­lit­i­cal lead­ers and bu­reau­crats.

A very sen­si­tive is­sue that the CJ grap­pled with was the “miss­ing per­sons’ case” re­lat­ing to peo­ple picked up by the army. He pur­sued the case so vig­or­ously that the au­thor­i­ties con­cerned were forced to pro­duce 30 of the miss­ing per­sons. He even threat­ened the army of­fi­cer com­mand­ing the Fron­tier Con­stab­u­lary with con­tempt of court pro­ceed­ings for fail­ing to ap­pear be­fore the court, in con­nec­tion with the case. Forc­ing the mil­i­tary to sub­mit to the process of the com­mon law was an un­prece­dented event in Pak­istan’s ju­di­cial his­tory. Again, it was Chaudhry’s suo moto no­tice of the tar­get killings in Karachi that jolted the rulers into action.

But when even Nel­son Man­dela had his de­trac­tors, it should be no sur­prise that Chief Jus­tice Chaudhry, who fear­lessly trod on many a pow­er­ful toe, had crit­ics. Some ac­cused him of ex­er­cis­ing ju­ris­dic­tion “in a po­lit­i­cal and par­ti­san man­ner,” par­tic­u­larly, when the CJ an­nulled the NRO and went af­ter Pres­i­dent Zardari.

But, on bal­ance, there can be no ques­tion that Iftikhar Mo­ham­mad Chaudhry set a new trend in ju­di­cial ac­tiv­ity. He ex­or­cised the ghost of Jus­tice Mu­nir and blazed a new trail in­ject­ing a full dose of self-es­teem in the ju­di­ciary so that no Supreme Court chief jus­tice will ever again gen­u­flect be­fore a dic­ta­tor. He has left his foot­prints on the sands of time.

Pay­ing trib­ute to the de­part­ing chief jus­tice at the full court ref­er­ence, At­tor­ney Gen­eral, Mu­nir A Ma­lik said: “Jus­tice Chaudhry has trans­formed him­self, trans­formed his court, trans­formed the law and in­deed trans­formed some of us as well. He has made his court – both ide­o­log­i­cally and ju­rispru­den­tially – the most in­flu­en­tial in­sti­tu­tion of con­tem­po­rary his­tory,” adding that “a com­mon de­nom­i­na­tor in his de­ci­sions and in­deed the legacy of his court will be re­mem­bered in his­tory as the Iftikhar Court.” That about sums up the legacy of the de­part­ing chief jus­tice. The writer is a se­nior po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst and for­mer edi­tor of SouthAsia Mag­a­zine.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Pakistan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.