Talk of lopsided accountability dangerous: CJP

Updated September 12, 2019

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Chief Justice of Pakistan Asif Saeed Khosa on Wednesday expressed the fear that growing perception about what he referred to as a “lopsided process of accountability” needed urgent remedial measures to save it from losing credibility.  — Imtiaz Ali/File
Chief Justice of Pakistan Asif Saeed Khosa on Wednesday expressed the fear that growing perception about what he referred to as a “lopsided process of accountability” needed urgent remedial measures to save it from losing credibility. — Imtiaz Ali/File

ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan Asif Saeed Khosa on Wednesday expressed the fear that growing perception about what he referred to as a “lopsided process of accountability” needed urgent remedial measures to save it from losing credibility.

“We, as a relevant organ of the state, also feel that 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,” the CJP said while speaking at the opening ceremony of the new judicial year 2019-20.

The event shown live at all registries of the Supreme Court through video link was also addressed by Attorney General Anwar Mansoor, Pakistan Bar Council vice chairman Syed Amjad Shah and Supreme Court Bar Association president Amanullah Kanrani.

Described by senior lawyers as a fair and comprehensive response to matters confronting the administration of justice, CJP Khosa in his speech emphasised that together the bench and the bar would resist with the fullest might any attempt from any quarter to destroy or damage the ideals of constitutionalism, rule of law and democracy. In recent times, he observed, the leadership of the bar had repeatedly voiced concern over receding political space in governance or the state and such concerns must not be ignored.

Notes that voices are being raised about muzzling of print and electronic media and suppression of dissent

“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 may not augur well for the future of the country as a constitutional democracy,” the chief justice feared.

“The recovery of the 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 society and the recognised standards of fairness and impartiality are compromised then retrieval of the lost constitutional and legal morality may pose an even bigger challenge to society at large in the days to come,” he added.

At the same time, the chief justice noted that voices are being raised about muzzling of the print and electronic media and suppression of dissent. “It must be appreciated by all concerned that a voice suppressed or an opinion curbed generates frustration, which gives rise to discontent and increasing discontent poses a serious threat to the democratic system itself.”

Referring to the presidential references against Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Justice K.K. Agha, the CJP explained that different steps had already been taken by the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) in this regard.

Referring to the proceedings pending before the SJC, the chief justice recalled that 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.

In all, 56 private complaints/information have been pending before the SJC since the start of the last judicial year in September 2018, while 102 more complaints were also filed last year. Thus 149 of the complaints were duly processed and disposed of by the council during the last judicial year and at present nine complaints/references were pending before the council, including the two filed by the president, the chief justice said.

Similarly, he said, different steps had already been taken in three complaints instituted before the filing of the presidential references, while in the fourth proceedings of the council had been stopped because of pendency of the same issue before the Supreme Court on its judicial side.

About suo motu, the CJP said he realised that a section of society was unhappy over the fact that in the last few months the apex court had not shown much interest in exhibiting judicial activism and had been slow in taking suo motu action over issues where that section of society so demanded.

That section of the society might remember that only a few months ago they were highly critical of such an enterprise, he added. “We realise 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,” he observed.

Taking suo motu action on the demand of some persons, the CJP explained, might constitute dictated exercise of jurisdiction whereas that very section otherwise believed that this court should never act at the bidding or demand of any outsider because acting on that basis militated against independence of this court.

He said the apex court would take suo motu notice of a matter only when it felt the necessity or utility for it and not when it was coaxed in that regard by outsiders. “At present this court is practising judicial activism of a different kind. Instead of judicial activism it is practising active judicialism,” the chief justice said.

Currently, 1.78 million cases are pending before all courts and tribunals in the country, whereas at the end of the last week the total pendency of cases before the apex court was 41,702.

Published in Dawn, September 12th, 2019