JUSTICE Athar Minallah
JUSTICE Athar Minallah

ISLAMABAD: The Chief Justice of the Islamabad High Court (IHC), Justice Athar Minallah, said on Wednesday that judges are not immune from accountability and in order to ensure transparency in the judiciary and legal system, they are required to undergo ruthless accountability.

Addressing a seminar organised by the Islamabad High Court Bar Association (IHCBA), Justice Minallah said that judges, by their ethos, express their independence through their judgements. He added that the independence of the judiciary means that their decisions should not be whimsical and should be delivered without any fear or favour towards any quarter.

“Judges are also not supposed to pass a popular decision, but instead decide cases in the light of the evidence available and the law of the land”, he told the gathering. Justice Minallah further said that there are certain pressure groups and powerful forces that try to influence judgements but an independent judge certainly does not succumb to such pressure tactics. Regarding character assassination and the uploading of fake information on social media, he said that this ‘new’ phenomenon is yet another tool for putting pressure on the justice system. However, he added that he has never cared about such tactics and being an adjudicator, he has always rendered judgements with an open and independent mind, on merit.

Says that since 1980 the lower judiciary has been functioning under makeshift arrangements

The top judge of the Federal Capital Territory said that social media have expanded manifold in the last 10 years or so and is presenting a challenge to the traditional media. At the same time, he said, “powerful groups” are also using social media to influence judges and the judicial system.

According to Justice Minallah, a judge ‘under influence’ of whatever quarters cannot decide a case on merit, as should be the case, and if this becomes a practice people will lose faith in the judicial system. The system, he said, is there to protect the helpless from the powerful. He further explained that the rule of law is a distinguishing, common, and well-entrenched feature in more developed countries. “Even Islam teaches the rule of law”, he added, to emphasise his point.

Speaking about what he termed the ‘deplorable condition’ of district courts in the country, Justice Minallah said that since 1980, the lower judiciary has been functioning under makeshift arrangements, with the upgrading of the district courts in particular not being amongst the priorities of the government. He said, however, that he has taken up the issue with the federal government.

IHCBA President Raja Inam Ameen Minhas, speaking at the occasion, expressed appreciation for Justice Minallah, in particular for having have established the district courts complex. He further said that the government has agreed in principle to release funds for this complex. Mr Minhas expressed the hope that the foundation-stone laying ceremony of the complex would be scheduled over the next few weeks, and that he had confidence that this would prove to be the case.

Published in Dawn, October 10th, 2019