ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) vice chairman Syed Amjad Shah on Tuesday questioned the role of the Supreme Court, asking if the top judiciary was successful in ensuring that other pillars of the state like parliament functioned independently within their remit as defined in the Constitution.
“Unfortunately suffocation reigns supreme in the present political dispensation,” Mr Shah regretted, adding that efforts were afoot by certain state agencies and institutions to curb dissenting voices of all kind.
“Should such institutions be allowed to intrude upon the domain of others contrary to what is enshrined in the Constitution and whether the apex court was effective in checking such creeping encroachment on part of certain institutions,” he said while speaking at a full-court reference held at the Supreme Court in honour of Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed on reaching superannuation.
Chief Justice of Pakistan Asif Saeed Khosa, Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, Attorney General Anwar Mansoor and Supreme Court Bar Association President Amanullah Kanrani also spoke at the event which was also attended by Justice Qazi Faez Isa, the SC judge who is facing a presidential reference in the Supreme Judicial Council.
In a strongly worded speech in Urdu, Amjad Shah said the PBC stood firm behind the armed forces, adding the entire legal community realised and supported the defence requirements and its importance, especially in view of the current volatile international situation. “But interference in political matters always erodes the prestige of such institutions, especially at a time when Pakistan is at a crossroads and cannot afford even eventuality,” he added.
Praising the departing judge for his illuminating judgements, Chief Justice Khosa observed that Justice Saeed’s ability to grasp and comprehend complex points in a matter of seconds and his skill of reducing intricate and complicated points of law to simple propositions were only a few of his many qualities that made him an excellent judge.
The CJP said Justice Saeed’s approach in deciding cases was clear and straightforward and his capacity to understand a proposition with the speed of light, his razor-sharp wit and penetrating but endearing sense of humour were indomitable features of his personality. During his time at the Supreme Court, Justice Saeed rendered many landmark judgements and settled many uncertain issues. His faithfulness to constitutionalism and rule of law had been a hallmark of his judgements and his adherence to the law and law alone was writ large in his opinions, the chief justice observed.
In his parting speech, Justice Saeed expressed the hope that his brother judges would never lose sight of the fact that Pakistan’s legal system was evolved and developed brick by brick, judgement by judgement. This legal journey would go on and would not be short-circuited through shortcuts, he reminded.
Justice Saeed said he was confident that the judges were aware that divergence of opinion in respect of the understanding but not misunderstanding of the law was a blessing to be celebrated. “My brother judges are also fully cognizant of the difference between ‘judicial individualism’ and ‘judicial anarchy’,” he said, adding that he was confident that judges were also conscious that the practicing advocates were an integral and essential part of the legal system and any effort to delete or dilute their role would disfigure this system beyond recognition.
The PBC vice chairman stressed the need for forging unity among all ranks to safeguard the country by adhering to best available solution which was to ensure supremacy of the law and the Constitution at all cost at a time when both external and internal forces were bent upon that Pakistan became Iraq, Syria or Afghanistan.
“At this difficult time when Pakistan is passing through a crucial juncture, the legal community expects that the Supreme Court will make it a point that all institutions perform with complete independence and limits determined by the Constitution,” he said, hoping that the apex court would play its due role in ensuring implementation of the fundamental rights of people at a time when all kinds of dissenting voices were being curbed and people were being involved in frivolous cases only to disrobe them of their due rights.
“It is the long-standing demand of the lawyers’ community to determine parameters of Article 184(3) of the Constitution so that the right of appeal could be ensured before a larger bench on each decision delivered under this inherent jurisdiction of the apex court. It is time that the Supreme Court should move to discourage the pointing fingers by amending its rules,” he advised.
About Article 175-A of the Constitution, Amjad Shah highlighted the increasing resentment among lawyers and called for amending the provision to empower legal representatives and the parliamentary committee on appointment of judges.
He said lawyers always criticised appointments of incompetent individuals in the top judiciary and appreciated eligible elevation, but issuance of contempt of court notice by a high court would not deter them to change their stance.
About Article 209 of the Constitution, which deals with the functioning of the SJC, the PBC vice chairman demanded dissemination of information regarding pending references against the superior court judges.
He voiced concern over the out-of-turn hearing of references against sitting SC judge Justice Faez Isa and said all bar councils and associations of the country had repeatedly expressed their resentment in this regard. Mr Shah expressed the hope that an SC full court would soon commence hearing of the constitutional petitions under Article 184(3) of the Constitution filed to challenge the filing of references against Justice Isa.
Published in Dawn, August 28th, 2019