Matters legal and illegal

It seems presumptuous to condemn a group of judges on the basis of activities which no one has claimed as illegal.

Basil Nabi Malik December 03, 2010

A recent report in this newspaper by Rauf Klasra titled “Myth busted: Chief Justice also got a plot”, amongst many others on the issue of plot allotments, has been an intriguing read to say the least. In fact, it may not be misplaced to say that more so than the reports, the responses elicited from the readers have been a source of amusement.

As the relevant policies in place at the time of the allotments are unfortunately difficult to acquire, therefore, at least for the time being, I shall refrain from giving a definitive answer on the legalities of the said allotments. However, there are certain aspects that remain conducive to discussion.

Firstly, the widespread reports that have been published in various newspapers do not clearly indicate that the allotments were illegal. In fact, most suggest the legality of the allotments. If this is so, then the question that arises is on the basis upon which the respectable judges are being impliedly discredited.

Frankly, it would be preposterous to lambast judges for accepting something that has been given to them as per the law. If public figures or positions are targeted on the basis of privileges, given via the law, then we might as well start propagating our venomous spew in regard to salaries being appropriated by civil servants, free medical care, or any other privileges that they are entitled to.

If morality of the policy is in question, then it must be realised that the standards of morality have always been, and shall forever be, relative. That is perhaps why individuals are predominantly condemned on violations of the law rather than that of morality. Therefore, unless the allotments defy the law, I am afraid no myth has been busted. Nevertheless, if it is the morality of the policy that has rubbed people the wrong way, then the fault clearly lies at the feet of the government.

Secondly, and alternatively, if any of the allotments are actually illegal, then those officials in the government, as well as any culpable judges, should be held accountable. But with that said, those judges who have not taken any such benefits must be pointed out. For example, in quite a few reports, it has been suggested that all Supreme Court judges, excluding the Chief Justice of Pakistan, have taken plots under the Prime Minister's Assistance Package, whereas it appears to be the case that at least one sitting justice, namely Justice Jawwad S Khawaja, has neither been allocated a plot nor has he applied for one. Such aspects must be explicitly and clearly highlighted by all those reporting on this matter to present a complete picture in regard to the ‘burning issue’ of plot allotments.

All in all, it seems presumptuous at best, and contemptuous at worst, to condemn a group of judges on the basis of activities which no one has explicitly claimed as illegal. We may attempt to condemn them on the basis of morality, but then again, in a country where — amongst other groups — even the religious segment of society is unable to agree on a common thread of morality, whose standard of morality are we to apply anyway?

Published in The Express Tribune, December 4th, 2010.


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