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In the heart of the courtroom, where the solemnity of justice should reign supreme, there exists a troubling and often veiled spectre known as the “lynching of justice.” This sinister force casts a shadow over the very foundations of our legal system, perpetuating a vicious cycle of injustice that goes unnoticed by many. It is a concept both literary and legal, for it is a dark narrative woven into the fabric of society, with judges as its unwitting characters.

Within this tragic drama, judges are the supposed guardians of justice, arbiters of right and wrong. Yet, criticism of their role persists, accusing some of wielding their gavels with a skewed sense of righteousness. Driven by personal biases or influenced by external pressures, they become unwitting executioners of justice, lynching its very essence. In the theater of the courtroom, they wear the robes of impartiality, concealing the cracks in the system.

The judicial system, an embodiment of societal values and norms, ought to be the bastion of fairness and equity. However, it can falter when judges fail to transcend the prejudices of the society from which they hail. Their selection process, rife with political and social considerations, often results in appointments that prioritise allegiance over merit. This politicization of the bench undermines the ideal of a judiciary free from external influence.

The advocates, who navigate this treacherous terrain, representing the voiceless and vulnerable, find themselves at the mercy of judges who may see them through a distorted lens. The “face value” of these advocates, their credentials and arguments, may be overshadowed by the whims and biases of the bench. The scales of justice, meant to be balanced, may tilt against them, perpetuating a cycle of inequality.

Judges, once selected, bear a solemn responsibility. They must engage in introspection, ask themselves; whether they should transcend the influences of the environment that moulded them. Should they strive to be different, to rise above the flaws of the system? Or will they continue to reflect the contradictions and complexities of the society they call home?

The lynching of justice, perpetuated by judges who succumb to societal pressures, is a haunting narrative that tarnishes the very core of a legal system. It underscores the urgent need for vigilance, reform, and an unwavering commitment to the true ideals of justice. Only when judges rise above the shadows of bias and partisanship can the courtroom truly become a sanctuary of fairness and equity, where justice is not just a word, but a living, breathing force that empowers society and upholds the dignity of all its members.

Undoubtedly, the societal landscape within Pakistan has long been characterized by a lack of democracy. Since the very inception of the country, it has been under the sway of two formidable forces: one, a coalition of civil, military, and judicial bureaucracy, and the other, a conglomerate of feudal lords, powerful landlords (waderas, chaudhrys, sardars, and khans etc.), religious divines, and influential figures.

These two groups emerged as inheritors of a colonial legacy, a legacy that ingrained in them a mindset of dominion, treating the masses as subjects while elevating themselves as the custodians of authority and righteousness. This historical backdrop casts a critical shadow on the role of colonial and societal forces in shaping Pakistan’s social and political landscape.

The first group, a product of colonialism, was meticulously crafted to administer British India’s subjects. They were conditioned to view themselves as agents of a foreign ruling class, carrying with them a sense of superiority and entitlement.

This perspective lingered long after colonial rule had ended, infiltrating the post-independence governance structures. The remnants of this colonial bureaucracy continued to wield power, often at the expense of democratic principles, perpetuating a system where the rule of law was subjugated to the whims of a select few.

On the other hand, the second group; comprised of feudal lords, large landowners, and influential religious figures, exerted control over various facets of society. Many of these figures owed their prominence to colonial patronage or collaboration.

They not only manipulated the economic, social, and political spheres but also extended their reach into the spiritual lives of the populace. This tight grip on the reins of society ensured that the common people continued to live in a socio-economic structure reminiscent of the colonial and pre-colonial eras, with limited opportunities for economic transformation.

In this milieu, the promise of democracy often remained elusive, as power remained concentrated within the grasp of these entrenched forces. The struggle for a more equitable and democratic society in Pakistan has been an ongoing battle, with many contending that the colonial and societal legacies have hampered the nation’s progress towards a truly inclusive and democratic future.

Inescapably, Pakistan’s historical narrative is marred by the enduring influence of colonial and societal forces that have perpetuated a system where democracy struggles to take root. The legacy of colonial bureaucracy and the dominance of influential elite have cast a long shadow over the nation’s democratic aspirations, leaving many to question the true extent of freedom and justice within its borders.

Indeed, the demeanor, attitude, and role of judges in the courtroom must be viewed against the backdrop of our evolving times. We’ve moved far from the 1950s and even the early 1990s, when the Internet’s overwhelming influence, through the globalization of information, knowledge, research, innovation, and development (IKRID), began reshaping our world.

The rise of social media and the global spread of IKRID, especially in the era of generative artificial intelligence and mobile internet, have progressively liberated people from the enduring remnants of colonialism, which lingered even post-independence. Judges must recognize that they are no longer agents of colonial rule, wielding arbitrary powers or displaying biases in the courtroom. They face a choice: adapt to changing societies or relinquish their positions.

The Judicial Commission of Pakistan has already outlined criteria for appointing new judges who understand that they are not emissaries of colonial powers but servants of the people. According to Article 2A of Pakistan’s constitution, they are subservient to the people, in whom the authority of the Almighty is vested. It is a pivotal moment for transformation or surrender.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

Dr Murtaza Khuhro

The writer is a retired Civil Servant and Advocate at the High Court. [email protected]

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