ZAB case: Judiciary cannot apologise for individuals’ acts, says CJ

Published: June 28, 2011

Every judge makes decisions according to his conscience and is responsible for his action: CJP PHOTO: ONLINE


Every judge makes decisions according to his conscience and is responsible for his actions, observed Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhary, during the hearing of the presidential reference for revisiting the death-by-hanging verdict awarded to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. “Repentance is an individual act; the judiciary cannot apologise for individuals.”

The judiciary as an institution should regret awarding the death penalty to ZA Bhutto, argued Dr Babar Awan, counsel for President Asif Ali Zardari. Awan contended that repentance should not be restricted to individuals, before the eleven-member larger bench headed by the chief justice. “If an institution can commit an error, why can’t it repent?” No one is above the law. “If that is so, why were DG Rangers and IGP Sindh removed for Sarfraz Shah’s murder in Karachi which was committed by a subordinate?” he argued. Former chief justice of the apex court Justice (retd) Naseem Hassan Shah regretted the verdict in his book, “Memoirs and Reflections”. It is a classic example.”

Should the court express repentance? Justice Nasirul Mulk asked. The President’s counsel replied, “Absolutely. The court should regret its verdict.” Seven judges of the Supreme Court dismissed ZA Bhutto’s review appeal for which they were individually responsible. “You would like the incumbent judiciary to repent their decision to uphold the death sentence,” the chief justice observed. Justice Naseem regretted his decision after retirement.

The counsel sought the Supreme Court’s opinion on legal questions raised in the reference. He enquired whether the former chief justice of Lahore High Court was biased against ZA Bhutto. He quoted the cases of Joan of Arc and Galileo and contended that they were declared innocent after the sentences were handed down. “Joan of Arc was declared innocent by the Pope and not by a court of law,” the chief justice remarked. “We want to strengthen the Constitution, the law and the institutions. Parliament has pardoned many other people, he said referring to the presidential pardon. “We want to strengthen the parliament which can legislate to refer cases to the apex court and implement the law.”

People blame us for not being able to protect the author of the 1973 constitution, Awan submitted. He asked the bench whether Bhutto was awarded the death sentence in accordance with Islamic law.

The court remarked that ZA Bhutto’s sentence was in accordance with the constitution and the law as the co-accused could also be penalised. Awan contended that the co-accused could be sentenced to life imprisonment, but he could not be sentenced to death. If a judge has committed any wrong, it must be condoned irrespective of any consideration, he argued. The hearing has been adjourned for Tuesday (today).

Published in The Express Tribune, June 28th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (6)

  • Munir
    Jun 28, 2011 - 12:18PM

    To re-open this 30 yr old case simply to curry favour with the current administration is a disgrace, particularly when there are far more pressing problems in Pakistan.ZAB cannot be brought back to life so what great purpose does it serve to continue with this distraction.That a government minister gave up his cabinet position to argue this case shows how his sense of priorities are totally misplaced. Recommend

  • Arshad Jamal Butt
    Jun 28, 2011 - 12:23PM

    If no one is above the law then how can president give pardon to Mr. Rehman Malik.Recommend

  • Ahmad Jehangiri
    Jun 28, 2011 - 12:41PM

    The problem to be in the rat race is, if you win you are still a rat. Least bothers whether Dr. (doubted) Babar Awan wins or loses.Recommend

  • FRS
    Jun 28, 2011 - 1:05PM

    The argument will go on. The institution is likely not to give verdict against itself. after the execution of the Capital Punishment, now it is not difficult for the Judiciary to say, it was OK.Recommend

  • Arsalan Ghumman
    Jun 28, 2011 - 8:31PM

    It is not a question whethes ZAB can be brought back, but a matter of fair and unbiased trial.Recommend

  • naeem khan
    Jun 28, 2011 - 8:51PM

    “Former chief justice of the apex court Justice (retd) Naseem Hassan Shah regretted the verdict in his book, “Memoirs and Reflections”. It is a classic example.” OK, Dr. of Law, you tell us your role when PM Bhutto was hanged.Did you distribute sweets? Majority of Pakistanis would not have done that kind of distasteful act,I am a life long PPP member and we cried for our nation’s loss.It just shows your character and bring this case to the Supreme Court has some ulterior motives.And by the way PM Bhutto was not an angel either and we are living with his legacy look at the political shenanigans of ISI,why was it so necessary to create a political wing in the Intelligence services.Recommend

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