ISLAMABAD, Nov 15: Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry said on Thursday that the Supreme Court enjoyed cross-cutting jurisdiction that empowered it to carry out the role of oversight. This role, he said, also provided the superior judiciary the authority to ensure that no institution, department or authority interfered in the domain of the other.
Presiding over a full-court meeting attended by 13 of the 15 judges, the chief justice said the apex court’s jurisdiction also allowed it to check any unlawful, unauthorised or mala fide act or exercise of the authorities.
Although the agenda of the meeting was to discuss the rising backlog of cases in the court, its timing and language raised alarm bells among lawyers and the media covering the Supreme Court proceedings and many linked the development with the Nov 5 statements of the chief justice and Chief of the Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.
On that day the chief justice had observed that missiles and tanks never guaranteed stability and security of a country, while the army chief said no individual or institution had the monopoly to decide what was right or wrong in defining the ultimate national interest.
It might have been an attempt to show unity, a senior lawyer said, adding that usually such meetings were held after the normal court timing, but Thursday’s session began at about 12:30pm and ended at 2:35pm.
The adoption of a strongly-worded and hard-hitting resolution by the Rawalpindi High Court Bar and District Bar Association Rawalpindi only the other day against the military establishment also triggered rumours and speculations.
But a senior court official, who did not want to be named, said the meeting and its agenda had been approved four days ago since information had to be delivered in time to the judges working at SC registries in different cities.
Besides, at the meeting the judges also volunteered to head benches in different cities to end the pendency.
The chief justice said the full court meeting had now become a regular event and a useful forum and provided an opportunity to take stock of the situation.
“The objective is to improve the court functioning and deliver to the beneficiaries of the justice system meaning the litigants and those who have approached the court for seeking relief against violation of their rights and for restoration of rights and entitlements,” the chief justice said.
He said the power of oversight of the apex court known as power of judicial review was a sacred trust which must be exercised in an independent and effective manner.
“It is a duty cast on the judiciary and the courts have to discharge it without fear or favour.”
He observed that the Supreme Court was a constitutional body which had constitutionally guaranteed jurisdictions like appellate, review, original and advisory. As per the prescribed principles enshrined in the Constitution, every organ of the state had to perform its duties and functions within the mandated sphere, he said.
“The present day judiciary is looked upon as one institution which is delivering the services to the people in an active manner. Therefore, it is incumbent upon the judiciary to come up to the people’s expectations and become a role model for all other institutions to follow.”
The chief justice informed the meeting that efforts were being made to fill vacancies in courts and enhance the capacity of judiciary.
The prime minister has also been approached through the principal secretary with a request to allocate required funds to recruit additional judicial officers to meet increased work load and deficient infrastructure across the country.
The full court meeting noted that as against institution of 13,653 from Jan 1 to Nov 10 this year, the apex court had decided 12,377 cases. It decided to constitute three two-judge benches — two in Lahore and one in Peshawar — for three months to reduce the backlog of cases.
Two- and three-member benches will be constituted at the principal seat of Islamabad.