Justice Hilali takes oath as first PHC woman chief justice

Published April 1, 2023
KP Governor Haji Ghulam Ali administers Justice Musarrat Hilali’s oath as Peshawar High Court chief justice. — Photo provided by author
KP Governor Haji Ghulam Ali administers Justice Musarrat Hilali’s oath as Peshawar High Court chief justice. — Photo provided by author

Justice Musarrat Hilali was sworn in as the first woman chief justice of the Peshawar High Court (PHC) — a role she will have until the judicial commission appoints a regular top judge — at a ceremony held at the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor House on Saturday.

Administering Justice Hilali’s oath, KP Governor Haji Ghulam Ali congratulated her and conveyed his best wishes to her.

She is a senior puisne judge of the court and will serve in the office until the appointment of a regular chief justice by the Judicial Commission of Pakistan. Justice Qaiser Rashid Khan retired as PHC chief justice on Thursday. Until a chief justice is appointed by the judicial commission, a judge, usually the senior puisne (senior most after the chief justice) steps into the role.

If appointed as regular chief justice, Justice Hilali would be the second female judge to serve on that post in any of the high courts as earlier, Justice Syeda Tahira Safdar was appointed as the chief Justice of Balochistan High Court in 2018.

Among the senior judicial and government officials who were present at the occasion were PHC judges, lawyers, KP police chief Akhtar Hayat Khan, KP Law Secretary Masood Ahmad, Special Assistant to caretaker Chief Minister Pir Haroon Shah and other caretaker cabinet members.

Remarkable career

Born in Peshawar on Aug 8, 1961, Justice Hilali, who is presently the senior-most judge of the high court after Justice Rooh-ul-Amin Khan, will retire on Aug 7 this year.

She received her law degree from Khyber Law College, University of Peshawar, and was enrolled as an advocate of district courts in 1983. She was enrolled as an advocate of the high court in 1988 and that of the Supreme Court in 2006.

Justice Hilali has earned several distinctions in her career — first as a civil society activist and member of the bar and then her elevation to the bench. Known as an outspoken human rights activist, she remained office-bearer of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and also headed its KP chapter on different occasions.

Justice Hilali was an active member of the Peshawar High Court Bar Association and served as its first female secretary, vice president and general secretary. She was also twice elected as an executive member of the Supreme Court Bar Association for 2007-8 and 2008-9.

She served as the first woman additional advocate general from November 2001 to March 2004 and as chairperson of the KP Environmental Protection Tribunal as well.

Justice Hilali was also the first provincial ombudsperson appointed in 2010 under the Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act 2010. She was elevated to the bench as an additional judge on March 26, 2013, and was confirmed as a judge of the high court on March 13, 2014.

Additionally, Justice Hilali remained a focal member of the 2007 Lawyers’ Movement — started after a reference was filed against then-CJP Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry — during which she courageously stood alongside the rest of the male-majority legal fraternity.

During that movement, one of her legs got fractured when police raided her residence for arresting her.

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