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EDITORIAL: Dread the thought of the toxicity that has increasingly polarised Pakistani political and social discourse over the last few years finally contaminating the judiciary as well.

Yet, as an unusually high number of politically driven cases to and fro between the lower and superior judiciary, a number of judgments and observations by judges and benches have not only been ruffling feathers in political circles, which is to be expected, now they’re starting to cause anxiety within the legal fraternity as well, which is dangerous.

Indeed, for the leadership of the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) to declare, very directly, that the chief justice’s comments – regarding Imran Khan’s Toshakhana case, currently being heard at the IHC (Islamabad High Court) – “gave the impression that high court judges have lost their value” is a very serious development.

The PBC vice chairman went on to say that the observations of the Supreme Court… were not legally valid” before dropping all pretence and declaring that “SC benches are siding with one particular party”.

Statements like these from a platform like this one will drive a wedge between different branches of the judiciary. Ordinarily, and legally, each has its own domain, but when a situation arises that a high court chief justice, hearing a crucial case, complains that his bench is being “sandwiched between the trial court and Supreme Court”, there is an urgent need to step back and take a fresh look at on-the-ground realities.

PBC believes, with some justification, that the CJ’s observation about “serious defects” in the trial court verdict put undue pressure on the IHC before it was done hearing the case.

Judges do a very difficult job, no doubt, but that is precisely why they do not have the luxury of making statements that may have unintended consequences. As we are all finding out, all over again, that one small comment here or there, especially when it is not legally warranted, can make a verdict controversial long before it is delivered, especially when it’s a contentious case to begin with.

And while it’s unfair to burden courts with political trivialities and constitutional nuances all the time just because the political elite always fails at its day job, the legal machinery must nonetheless function in a manner that does not in any way compromise its outlook.

Because once its impartiality is tarnished, it’s not just the judges and benches, but the state itself that ultimately falls apart as its pillars give way.

It is regrettable that the chief justice of the highest court of the land is being accused of “ignoring procedures” and “undermining high court judges” by none other than the highest elected body of lawyers in Pakistan.

Surely, the honourable lordships are not oblivious to widening cleavages within their own halls of judgment. There is an urgent need to keep the judiciary from being infected any further from what can very quickly turn into a loss of credibility. And the best way of doing it is respecting the boundaries that have already been set in stone in the country’s legal framework.

There’s no doubt that these are unfortunate times for the country. The political slugfest alone, which requires repeated interpretations of the constitution, means the judiciary is dragged into the spotlight a lot more than it would like.

But that only makes it more important for it to appear cohesive since signs of polarity will not only weaken its own position, but also disfigure the political landscape that much more. And nobody wants to go down that road.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023


Comments are closed.

KU Aug 29, 2023 01:26pm
The propaganda by vested interest is dangerous for the judicial system. We the people, are quick to jump the gun or the bandwagon without reading the judgment. The due process of law is considered of utmost importance in justice, and many other laws apply to any particular case, but we don’t go into detail and unwisely voice our own opinion without facts. Sadly, the norm now is to create enough noise to drown the just or unjust act and to cover the poor application of the law by the executive, and when the judiciary corrects the action of the executive, we politicize the issue altogether.
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