Justice Chaudhry bows out: Years of applause end with a day of denunciation

New chief justice questions suo motu policy; media boycotts coverage.

Azam Khan December 11, 2013
Out-going Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry (R) and his successor, Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani hearing the full court reference held in Justice Chaudhry’s honour. PHOTO: PID


Everything seemed to be going well just before the curtain fell on the Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry show.

But the end of a long and celebrated tenure didn’t seem to go to plan – and the outgoing chief justice left on an unpleasant note of controversy.

First, the felicitations and salutes were replaced by a boycott by the media – the very same platform that raised him on a pedestal and helped fuel Justice Chaudhry’s judicial activism for over half a decade.

The controversy erupted after one media group was given privilege over others and got access to footage of the proceedings of the full court reference held for Justice Chaudhry’s retirement.

And that wasn’t the extent of it.

During the full court reference held in Justice Chaudhry’s honour, his successor, Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani, raised a big question mark over the one policy that most defined the outgoing chief justice’s legacy: suo motu notices.

“There is a need to determine the limits and contours of [the judiciary’s] jurisdiction under Article 184(3) of the Constitution with a view to discourage frivolous petitions and to prevent the misuse of jurisdiction by vested interests,” he said during the full court reference.

Elaborating, Justice Jillani said, “The apex court, on account of its mandate under Article 184(3) and 187, may be called upon to fill gaps between law and social dynamics. But while doing so, the court has to defer to an equally important constitutional value of the trichotomy of powers.”

Supreme Court Bar Association President Kamran Murtaza and Pakistan Bar Council Vice Chairperson Syed Qalb-e-Hassan appreciated Justice Chaudhry but also shared their concerns about the discriminatory steps taken during his tenure, especially the suo motu jurisdiction of the court and appointing “ineligible judges”.

Bidding farewell

Charged as usual, Justice Chaudhry announced his retirement at his farewell party, saying, “It’s a rainy day today and it was a rainy day when I was restored in 2009.”

Addressing a packed courtroom the outgoing chief justice thanked his wife and children for standing by him during difficult times.

Responding to his successor’s concerns, the relentless Justice Chaudhry emphasised on the importance of the court’s interference in issues of public importance. “It is mandated to protect the public against the violation of their fundamental rights, abuse of power and arbitrariness.”

The court, he admitted, was often criticised for adjudicating on policy matters that fall in the executive’s domain. However, he justified this saying the courts had endeavoured to ensure that the fundamental rights of citizens are not violated by unfair policies.

He talked about the Supreme Court’s Human Rights Cell (HRC) that he said had provided the common man with unprecedented access to justice.

Attorney-General Muneer A Malik was all praise too. “Justice Chaudhry has transformed himself, transformed his court, transformed the law and indeed transformed some of us as well.”

He has made his court – both ideologically and jurisprudentially – the most influential institution of contemporary history, said the attorney-general. He said that a common denominator in his decisions and indeed the legacy of his court will be remembered in history as the “Iftikhar Court.”

But even he acknowledged that the use of suo motu jurisdiction is contentious, but said just because it was a road less travelled does not mean it is not tread upon.

At the end of the day, while the chief justice exited the reference and the judiciary with his head held high, the media boycott, the questioning of his penchant for suo motus and his successor’s scepticism ruined the script of what was meant to be a perfect and widely-celebrated send-off.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 12th, 2013.


Pakistani Patriot | 8 years ago | Reply

After all these years Musharraf is vindicated and the truth about Iftikhar Chaudhry is in front of everyone. One of the charges against Iftikhar Chaudhry was the support of his son's corruption when he was rightfully and legally suspended by Musharraf. Other charges were meddling in executive powers, appointing ineligible judges based on his preference etc. etc. Everything he was accused of in the reference that Musharraf signed as President in his suspension is being charged on Iftikhar Chaudhry now. So was Musharraf right? Chaudhry first gave total power to Musharraf and then tried to take it away, and his adventurism and power broker role has caused immense damage to Pakistan.

Uza Syed | 8 years ago | Reply

@Truth: He "played"!! with something as sacrosanct and sacred as our constitution, our judiciary and above all the very spirit of justice, as oppose to he should have given all any one in his position should have and that's what differentiates a man of honour and someone driven by populism and self-interest. Shame.

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