LAHORE: Former Lahore High Court chief justice Iftikhar Hussain Chaudhry passed away on Friday in London after a prolonged illness. He had been undergoing treatment for cancer since last year.
Chaudhry had a vast and varied experience in legal practice in major areas of law. He had competently dealt with constitutional, criminal, civil, and commercial cases brought to the LHC and rendered a large number of notable judgments.
Chaudhry took oath as the 36th chief justice of the LHC and remained in office from September 7, 2002, to December 12, 2007.
Some of his famous judgments include the one on the Pakistan Lawyers Forum vs Federation in which he ruled that the Constitution lacked specific provisions to bar an officer in uniform from becoming president. In another notable judgement, he declared the use of helmets necessary. Chaudhry had also banned the use of fork lifts by private contractors to lift vehicles challanned by traffic police.
Chaudhry was also a member of the Supreme Judicial Council bench that had initiated proceedings on a reference sent by then president General (retd) Pervez Musharraf against former chief justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. The SJC’s proceedings were later stayed by the Supreme Court which also declared judges who had taken oath under the PCO as contemnors and initiated proceedings against them. At that point, Chaudhry chose not to defend himself and on reaching superannuation on December 12, 2007, he retired.
During Musharraf’s rule, Chaudhry was considered his ally and hard on the bar. On March 16, 2007, police raided the Lahore High Court Bar’s premises and took over the building. Hundreds of lawyers were arrested that day on Chaudhry’s orders. The police removed lawyers from the premises for a week. This was during the lawyers’ movement against Musharraf to restore Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. Over an altercation during court proceedings with late senior advocate MD Tahir, Chaudhry had had him imprisoned for contempt of court. He did not visit the LHC on the day he retired, opting not to receive a formal send-off which has been a tradition of good will for outgoing judges. While Chaudhry was CJ, Justice (retd) Saeed Akhtar did not show up for his send-off, when he retired, in protest against Chaudhry.
The demolition of Lahore High Court’s historic building also came to pass during his tenure as CJ. Later the Supreme Court ordered LHC to construct the building in its original form.
During his tenure as CJ, lawyers’ chambers were demolished overnight and premises for the judicial academy and the advocate general’s office were built in their place. The LHC had also claimed ownership of a park at GPO Chowk in front of Aiwan-i-Auqaf’s building and had taken possession after winning litigation from civil court.
Chaudhry was born in 1946 in Jhelum to a prominent family with a long history of public service. He was educated in Jhelum and Lahore. He studied law at the Punjab University Law College, Lahore, and passed his LLB examination in first division in 1970. He worked with his elder brother Chaudhry Altaf Hussain, a famous lawyer, who twice became governor of the Punjab. He started his practice at the Lahore High Court in 1979 and shifted to Rawalpindi in 1981 when the Rawalpindi Bench of Lahore High Court was established. He remained counsel for the federal government, standing counsel and deputy attorney general for Pakistan prior to his elevation as an additional judge of the LHC on August 7, 1994. He was appointed a permanent judge of the court on June 5, 1995.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 6th, 2015.