Independence of judiciary is debatable, says IHC CJ

Published August 12, 2021
“Lack of confidence of the people in the judicial system and erosion of the rule of law create an opportunity for repressive and tyrannical forces," IHC CJ Athar Minallah said. — Dawn/File
“Lack of confidence of the people in the judicial system and erosion of the rule of law create an opportunity for repressive and tyrannical forces," IHC CJ Athar Minallah said. — Dawn/File

ISLAMABAD: The judiciary has failed to come up to the nation’s expectations and one cannot claim with confidence that the institution is independent, the Islamabad High Court’s chief justice admitted in an Independence Day message on Wednesday.

“As the judicial branch of the state, we need to ask ourselves on this auspicious occasion whether the state has fulfilled its constitutional duty of ensuring inexpensive and expeditious justice to its citizens; whether the actual stakeholders — the people of Pakistan — have trust and confidence in the fairness, impartiality, accountability, responsiveness and independence of the judicial system.

“I am afraid that the answer cannot be given in the affirmative with confidence,” Justice Athar Minallah said.

The IHC CJ went on to say: “Lack of confidence of the people in the judicial system and erosion of the rule of law create an opportunity for repressive and tyrannical forces.

“An independent, impartial and effe­c­­tive judiciary is an essential prerequisite for maintaining the rule of law, protecting the fundamental rights of wea­ker segments of society and a bulwark against repression, poverty, decadence and economic and social inequality.”

In his message, Justice Minallah recalled a number of extra-constitutional acts carried out in the country’s history, observing that “our journey towards achieving a truly independent institution, adherence to the Constitution and maintenance of rule of law has remained chequered”.

“Successive constitutional breakdowns and adoption of the doctrine of revolutionary legality and the doctrine of necessity, besides betraying the vision of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, have impeded the process to establish an order where the principles of freedom, equality, tolerance, social justice and democracy are fully observed,” Justice Minallah said.

“The people of Pakistan, nonetheless, have relentlessly aspired and strived for establishing a democratic system governed under the Constitution. The most crucial attributes of such a system are strong, independent and stable institutions which function within the limits prescribed by the Constitution.”

Justice Minallah said he was determined to restore the people’s faith in judiciary by expeditiously clearing a huge backlog of cases.

According to statistics compiled by the Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan, the total number of cases pending in courts across the country is 2.15 million. Of these, 390,713 cases are pending with the superior judiciary — the Supreme Court, the Federal Shariat Court, the four provincial high courts and the Islamabad High Court.

Flag-hoisting ceremony

The IHC chief justice said flag-hoisting on the Independence Day must not be treated as a mundane ritual. Instead, he stressed, it should be taken as an opportunity for introspection.

The Islamabad High Court has decided to dedicate this year’s Independence Day to the lawyers who have lost their lives in Quetta and Islamabad over the years.

In addition, Chief Justice Athar Minallah has invited a number of senior lawyers from Balochistan and Islamabad as special guests to a flag-hoisting ceremony on Aug 14.

Published in Dawn, August 12th, 2021

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