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Poetic licence

November 18, 2012

A FULL court meeting headed by Pakistan’s chief justice on Friday adopted the song ‘Justice for All’ written by Justice Tasadduq Hussain Jillani and first heard at a Supreme Court function on Aug 14, 2006. The meeting also deliberated upon and granted a request by the vice-chairman of the Pakistan Bar Council seeking permission to play the song at PBC events. The etiquette followed by the PBC here may be a bit confusing to those outside legal circles. Why would an organisation — even of lawyers — need the court’s permission to adopt as its anthem a piece of verse — even one written by an honourable judge? The PCB likes it and can have it, in the same way lawyers, if they so desire, can address the judges as janab-i-wala without petitioning the courts. If there is a case here, it may be one for the literary critics to judge.

Feared as a law unto them, the most unyielding of critics would concede a trend is shaping here. The bench likes to quote from literature to add emphasis to their observations — turmoil facilitates the lavishing of all kinds of poignant sayings on this beloved land. This nation has been pitied and it has been reminded of Faiz’s lines in recent times. If these were allusions made within the larger body of a court ruling, the anthem is different in that it is an original. “The toil, the sweat, the tears and the blood … Thou may belong to any religion, creed or caste, Oh! The vision is distorted, the march is thwarted, Castles in the sand, babes in the woods.…” This is poetry — that too of the revolutionary variety to which all struggling people have a right. Once the poet has spoken there can be absolutely no embargo on who can adopt the lines as their own.