Justice Umar Ata Bandial took oath as the country’s Chief Justice on Feb 2, 2022. Justice Bandial has succeeded Justice Gulzar Ahmad, who joined the office in December 2019 and retired on 1st of Feb. Justice Umar Ata Bandial is the 28th Chief Justice of the country and fourth Cambridge alumnus to serve in that position.
Justice Bandial is taking the baton at a difficult time when the court system faces increasing reservations over the time it takes to accept, pursue and conclude cases. Over two million cases are pending across the country’s courts, and 51,766 cases before the Supreme Court itself. The rule of law has become a rallying cry for the populace.
Thanks to social media, unlike electronic and print media, it has become increasingly difficult to control information dissemination and tell the population to unquestioningly accept state institution decisions. A plethora of stories on social media come out daily that highlight that the law is not implemented blindly (Lady justice eyes are not covered), and there is a difference in application between the rich and poor or the powerful and the have nots. He needs to show this is not the case.
جسٹس عمرعطا بندیال نے ”چیف جسٹس آف پاکستان” کا حلف اٹھا لیا
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— HUM News (@humnewspakistan) February 2, 2022
Justice Bandial has a highly diverse educational and professional background. Born in Lahore, Umar Bandial received his elementary and secondary education from Kohat, Rawalpindi, Peshawar, and Lahore. He did his bachelor’s (Economics) degree from Columbia University, USA, which he followed up with a Law Tripos degree from Cambridge University, U.K. He later qualified as Barrister-at-Law from Lincoln’s Inn, London.
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In 1983, he enrolled as an Advocate of Lahore High Court and some years later, as an Advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Justice Bandial primarily dealt with commercial and banking issues as a practicing lawyer. He was elevated as a judge of the Lahore High Court in December 2004. Justice Bandial was one of the judges who declined to retake their oath under the Provisional Constitution Order (PCO) of November 2007, when General Musharraf proclaimed a state of emergency on November 3, 2007.
Given the position of the Supreme court justice is made based on seniority, Justice Bandial’s elevation comes as no surprise to anyone. He enjoys a rapport with the law community and is said to be composed and a meticulous person who thinks about his decision and the precedential value it would set.
Justice Bandial will continue on his post till his retirement, which is due in September 2023. He would most likely be succeeded by Justice Qazi Faiz Isa, the next senior-most judge.