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Thursday, February 15, 2024

Why Pakistani judiciary is a disappointment?

Pakistan was ranked 130th among the 139 assessed countries globally in “adherence to rule of law”, evaluated by the World Justice Project. Sadly, it was only Afghanistan that ranked behind Pakistan in the region. Adherence to rule of law can only be achieved when there is complete judicial independence and impartiality so that people can take their disputes to court and have them resolved according to law.

There was an iconic interview given by Shoaib Akhtar, the fastest bowler ever produced by word cricket to an Indian Television channel when there was a controversy about Sachin Tendulkar being scared to face his bowling. Shoaib smilingly said when he was asked the question” he is your bhagwan not my bhagwan, if bhagwan plays cricket he might get hit and I hit him, and he was scared” Not the exact quote but the gist of what he said. He disarmed the Indian anchor with his smiling demeanor & straight forwardness.

The anchor was seriously annoyed with Shoaib but as his statement was so pragmatic there was nothing he could have said. In Pakistan we have some identified bhagwan or demigod we might say against whom nothing can be said. Whatever their conduct maybe it cannot be criticized. This is not a perception as such this is the law. Nowadays one of these institutions’ “judiciary” is under serious discussion. However, Pakistan needs to understand that our bhagwan is our bhagwan they have no such protection outside Pakistan and just like Sachin if they play cricket they might get hit or if they get into the mud, they will get dirty.

Read more: Role of Judiciary and the Challenges it faces

Who is responsible for the lack of efficiency in the Justice system?

Pakistan had a good beginning and at least have one Chief Justice of the Supreme Court who passes all ethical tests and has led a blameless life as a benchmark for others to follow. After the serious “faux pas” committed by Justice Munir to invoke the doctrine of necessity which haunts Pakistan even now and has besmirched his reputation as a Justice we had Alvin Robert Cornellius as the fourth Chief Justice of Pakistan. Justice Cornellius, a catholic Christian guided Pakistan through the formative developing years from 1960 to 1968. He led a blameless life and upheld the highest standard of ethical fairness. So much so that he was unapproachable and judged almost aloof from everyone.

He had a legal philosophy which was to consider the law to have a moral function in society and recognize crime as a fact of society. His writings (in those days Chief Justices were almost recluse and no question about them going around making speeches) indicate his bent of mind and his legal philosophy and are taken as legal guidelines even now. Justice Cornelius did not mix with people, refused to attend any ceremonies and kept the judiciary separate from any types of controversy. After retirement he lived the life of a recluse in Faletti’s hotel Lahore did not try to cudgel any favors or get any port and died there at the age of 88.

We can proudly compare Justice Cornelius with any Chief Justices in the world and be sure to keep our heads high. But that was as good as it would get. The benchmark set by Justice Cornellius was never approached let alone breached. As Justices are Bhagwan in Pakistan we can’t really discuss their conduct, but I can state the magnificent conduct and leave the readers to pass judgment or form a conclusion.

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Judiciary all over the world are respected

So much so that when the Germans were bombing London, Prime Minister Winston Churchill was briefed on the casualties and economic collapse. He asked, “Are the courts functioning?” When told that the judges were dispensing justice as normal, Churchill replied, “Thank God. If the courts are working, nothing can go wrong. That’s the importance which the world gives to the judiciary and dispensing justice. However, it’s their conduct that earns the respect. Justice Alvin Robert Cornelius is reverently respected even now in Pakistan.

Only in banana republics, dictatorships are supported in a court of law. Pakistan certainly is not a banana republic but the judges have a proud record of supporting dictatorship, taking oath under dictatorship, using the doctrine of necessity to justify legal actions which are otherwise deemed unfair, the highest court separating into two sections and giving contradictory judgment, and so on and so forth. If we go around the world in actual democracies, we will find very few precedents of any retired judge after serving his or her full tenure becoming President or Governor, not acting but permanent. Pakistan does present an unsavory history like that with one judge allegedly being rewarded for bribing other judges of the Supreme court to revolt against the present at that time Chief Justice. A judiciary is really a group of Bhagwan who can not be criticized but raising an eyebrow is an option or not?

I wonder what would have been the action taken in a real democracy if a Judge confesses that he helped in the judicial murder of a political leader in a court of law? It’s quite questionable whether that person can retain his record as a Supreme court judge even if the actions are taken posthumously. What can be the action taken if an authentic and agreed by all parties involved audio of a judge being asked to punish the leader of an opposition party emerged?

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The judge and the leader should be behind the bars

Correct? What action needs to be taken if a judge is found to be meeting persons whose cases are in his court secretly and clandestinely inside and outside the country? Then the video of the judge in objectionable activities surfaces with the judge confessing to blackmailing? Both sides will be in jail, correct? Is there any instance in the world where the judiciary has asked the prosecuting party (the government) to guarantee that the person will not die of natural causes? Can anyone guarantee anyone not dying from natural causes? Is there any precedent of a convicted person getting bail and then being allowed to proceed abroad for treatment?

Is there any instance in the world for a convicted person getting released on bail on gender grounds and then making speeches and the same judiciary that gave them bail? Any instance in the world where a retired Chief Justice gives an affidavit against another retired Chief Justice and a serving Justice and all three are free? Out of the two parties one must be lying whichever the party is should be in jail correct?

Respect is earned. Conduct unbecoming never give you respect. Millions of cases are pending in the judicial system of Pakistan. Generation changes before cases are decided. It’s a common joke in Pakistan to get a judge instead of a lawyer to decision in your favor. There was a case of more than 100 people shot on national television and a worldwide audience saw it for more than six hours. No justice has been provided, no decision has been taken but of course, the judiciary is Bhagwan they must be respected, and nothing should be said against them.

Read more: Politicization of judiciary-a threat to survival of democracy in Turkey?

It’s about time for the judiciary to establish themselves as the true flag bearer of Alvin Robert Cornellius. It’s the litmus test. They have to take back the respect that is their due. Investigate all incidents even opening the Bhutto case again and set history right. Fīat jūstitia ruat cælum is a Latin legal phrase, meaning “Let justice be done though the heavens fall.” And that’s what should be done here. In this case it’s more necessary as the past is murky and the present unsavory and the future uncertain. The Pakistani judiciary owes it to Justice Cornellius to get their honor back.


The author has worked for Unilever for 25 years. He is a professional translator/interpreter of five languages and is also a certified computer trainer. He is currently living in Virginia, USA. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.