To the right of the Supreme Court entrance is a wall inscribed with the lyrics of a song. Titled ‘Justice for All’, the lines ending in “long live the message … of justice for all”, have been penned by Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani, who was approved by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday as the successor of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.
With the tenure of Justice Chaudhry drawing to a close on December 11, Justice Jillani is set to take his place following the apex court’s principles set by the judgment in the Al Jihad Trust case of 1996. As the senior most judge of the Supreme Court, Justice Jillani will take oath as the new chief justice on December 12 and serve as top judge for a period of seven months till his retirement. Currently, he is also the acting chief election commissioner and is busy with preparations for the local government elections. Justice Nasirul Mulk will step into his shoes on July 6, 2014.
Born in Multan in 1949, Jillani did his Masters in political science from Forman Christian College, Lahore, and LLB from the University of Punjab. He also pursued a course in constitutional law from the University of London’s Institute of Advanced Legal Studies.
He was elevated as Supreme Court judge in July, 2004 where he served till a state of emergency was imposed by the then military ruler Pervez Musharraf on November 3, 2007. Upon his refusal to take a fresh oath, he was rendered dysfunctional. After the reinstatement of the judges sacked by Musharraf, Jillani re-joined as judge of the apex court in 2009.
Holding the gavel
Justice Jillani prevented the court from interfering in the executive’s domain. He rendered a judgment on the issue of irregularities in the allocation of Hajj quotas, saying that it is the mandate of the executive to decide such issues while ensuring transparency. “If the courts fail to maintain this delicate balance, none else but people’s confidence in the judiciary would be the worst victim,” Justice Jillani wrote in a recent ruling.
Known to be soft-spoken and cool-tempered, Justice Jillani also played a significant role in a case against former ambassador to the US Hussain Haqqani. Haqqani’s counsel Asma Jehangir was at loggerheads with the Justice Chaudhry-led bench for what she said were “biased” findings of the judicial commission. It was Justice Jillani’s intervention, however, that moderated flared tempers on both sides and averted a decision against the former ambassador.
Citing professional ethics as a reason, Justice Jillani recused himself from the contempt of court case against former prime minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani due to their familial ties. His verdict regarding criteria for the establishment of private medical colleges is considered a landmark judgment.
The library keeper
Known to be an avid enthusiast of poetry, antiques and film, Justice Jillani has been described by the World Justice Project as a liberal, independent and balanced judge.
In July 2008, when Justice Jillani was invited by the American Bar Association to receive the Rule of Law Award on behalf of those judges of Pakistan who demonstrated courage in upholding the Rule of Law in the country, he wrote: “In Pakistan, if one were to distinguish a headline from a trend line in assessing change, the recent events are a pointer to a moral renaissance and augur well for the spiritual health of the nation. Never before has so much been sacrificed by so many for the supremacy of law and justice. The assertion of the judicial conscience, the rise of a vibrant Bar, a vigilant civil society, and the emergence of an independent media would ultimately lead to the establishment of a constitutional democracy, stable political institutions, and an expanded enforcement of the Rule of Law. These to me are the trend lines that I would like to pin my hopes on.”
Recently, retired librarian of the apex court, Chaudhry Muhammad Aslam, told The Express Tribune that Justice Jillani managed the affairs of the library and made sure to add thousands of new books to its shelves.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 28th, 2013.