ISLAMABAD: Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja will don the robe to become the 23rd Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) on Monday.
But Justice Khawaja is unlikely to have much of a legacy because he will reach superannuation next month, on Sept 9 to be exact. Thus his tenure will last merely 23 days, after which he will pass on the mantle to Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali.
According to analysts, his elevation as the country’s top adjudicator, when he will replace the outgoing Chief Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk, will mean doing away with the practice of exercising judicial restraint because he favours judicial activism, as set out by former Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.
On another note, he may well be the first judge in the history of Pakistan whose appointment order is in Urdu, and not in English. This is appropriate because the next chief justice of the Supreme Court is considered to be a strong proponent of Urdu, though he has command over English as well.
“Justice Khawaja’s tenure is too short a period to have any appreciable impact,” commented former deputy attorney general Tariq Khokhar, who pursued the cases of missing persons in the Supreme Court as the government’s law officer.
According to Mr Khokhar, the perception among jurists is that Justice Khawaja has a “judicial ideology”. In essence, he feels that controversial issues can be decided by the Supreme Court and do not necessarily have to be referred to the parliament.
On those grounds, Justice Khawaja’s approach can be said to be similar to that of former Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry.
“On a personal note, Justice Khawaja’s finest moments came when he heard the cases of missing persons. He was the epitome of justice. The nation owes him a great debt,” Mr Khokhar said.
Mr Khokhar’s observation seems to be correct when seen in the light of the dissenting note Justice Khawaja wrote in the Aug 5 verdict of the Supreme Court in the case about the Constitution’s 21st Amendment.
In his note Justice Khawaja held that the 21st amendment was liable to be struck down because the parliament could not be deemed a sovereign or supreme body and that it was wrong to suggest that there were no limitations on the parliament’s powers to amend the Constitution.
The limitations were not only political but were borne out from the Constitution itself, Justice Khawaja wrote, adding that the apex court had the powers to review an amendment passed by the parliament and to strike it down where appropriate.
“You will soon see revival of the practice of taking suo motu notices against indifference or apathy on the part of the government regarding the problems faced by the people,” commented a senior officer of the Supreme Court.
The officer’s statement reminds one of an observation made by Justice Khawaja when he said during a hearing: “Nothing amazes us in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
“But I have not reconciled to what is happening around us. Indifference will not seep into me.”
Justice Khawaja shot to prominence when he resigned as judge of the Lahore High Court (LHC) on March 19, 2007, to pursue a career as an academic after joining the Lahore University of Management Sciences as professor and head of its Department of Law and Policy.
He had resigned as judge of the LHC against the backdrop of the sacking of then Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry by Gen Pervez Musharraf.
Justice Khawaja was later elevated as judge of the Supreme Court on June 5, 2009.
The summary for the appointment of Justice Khawaja as the CJP was written in Urdu because of an ongoing case being heard by a bench headed by him. The case is about the promotion of Urdu, in which the federal government has assured the court that an order has been issued to make it mandatory for the president, prime minister, federal ministers and other official representatives to deliver their speeches in Urdu both inside the country and abroad.
Justice Khawaja has also introduced a wing in the Supreme Court which has been tasked with the job of translating orders into Urdu.
Justice Khawaja wrote his dissenting judgment in the case about the 21st Amendment both in Urdu and English.
Justice Khawaja was the only judge who spoke in Urdu at the reference held at the Supreme Court to bid farewell to Chief Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk.
Not only is he fond of Urdu, he often recites verses in Persian. He also loves music.
He can often be spotted while enjoying his evening walk at the well-known Margalla Trail No 5.
Published in Dawn, August 16th, 2015