Judicial battles

Chaudhry Manzoor Ahmad, former MNA from Kasur and a member of PPP’s central executive committee (CEC), expressed his distrust in the Lahore High Court (LHC) the other day. Mr Manzoor had filed an election petition against PML-N MNA Waseem Akhtar Sheikh, accusing him of rigging on polling day in the 2008 general elections. Chaudhry Manzoor appeared before an election tribunal and said that he had no hope of any justice from the LHC, which, “due to Chief Justice Khawaja Sharif, has become prejudiced as an institution”. Coming from a litigant, this statement raises some pertinent questions vis-à-vis the credibility of the incumbent judiciary.

Chaudhry Manzoor is not the first one to express his doubts about the courts in recent days. This does not sound good for the respectable institution of the judiciary but not very surprising in view of the recent statement made by LHC Chief Justice Khawaja Sharif at a ceremony in Hafizabad. Justice Sharif not only boasted about his close ties to the Mian brothers but also ‘advised’ the PPP to quit the coalition government in Punjab if it had any differences with the PML-N. The Supreme Court (SC) has also come under scrutiny after locking horns with the executive over the NRO and the 18th Amendment issues. Justice Javed Iqbal recently observed that the Charter of Democracy (CoD) was an accord between two political parties, thus it did not indicate the will of the people and had no legal sanctity. While it is true that the CoD was an agreement between two mainstream political parties – the PPP and the PML-N – the 18th Amendment on the other hand was passed unanimously by parliament. The parliamentarians are the representatives of the people of Pakistan and thus reflect the will of the people. By making statements that may be interpreted as being political, the honourable justices are not doing the cause of the judiciary any good. The SC has recently been issuing orders to the government, NAB and other state institutions on some issues. There is a fine line between judicial activism and judicial dictation. What prevents crossing that line is the time-honoured principle of judicial restraint. By seemingly abandoning that, the judiciary seems to be veering into the political domain, which is bound to engender controversy.

Now that some sections of the public are voicing their distrust in the fairness and impartiality of the judiciary, it is time that the honourable courts take notice and refrain from making unnecessary remarks in court, which may be taken out of context, and revert to the best practice of letting their judgements speak for them.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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