CJP’s stint short but dignified

Source:  Dawn.com Published in Justice on Monday, June 23, 2014

A day before he was sworn in as the chief justice, former attorney general Munir A. Malik suggested that Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani consider creating his own legacy rather than following the one outgoing chief justice, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, was leaving behind-

Now, with less than two weeks to go before Chief Justice Jillani also doffs his robes on July 5, he is set to be remembered as a liberal and polite judge who, despite having only seven months in office, has some landmark judgments to his credit.

The recent verdict ordering the protection of minorities’ constitutional rights and ordering law-enforcement agencies to promptly register criminal cases over the desecration of their places of worship, may go a long way, given the prevailing environment of rising intolerance and bigotry.

“I always keep them (minorities) close to my heart,” the chief justice had once said, something that reflected in a number of speeches he made on different occasions. And the elevation of Justice James Joseph as a judge of the Lahore High Court is testimony to that commitment.

Jurists say Chief Justice Jillani’s legacy is a departure from the activism of his predecessor

Similarly, getting the National Database and Registration Authority to draft a new policy for the registration of parentless or orphaned children has already won the appreciation of all segments of society.

But the thing the chief justice would be missed most for would be his choice of judges that he appointed to the superior judiciary during his short term in office. His picks were not only competent and honest, but also had a liberal approach towards social issues.

Though the media and certain groups within the legal fraternity still yearned for the activist judiciary of old, nearly everyone agreed that the role of the Judicial Commission had changed for the better.

The case of Justice Sardar Raza Khan — who was recently made chief justice of the Federal Shariat Court — is an example of this. Justice Raza Khan is widely regarded for his exemplary conduct as a former Supreme Court judge.

Similarly, no one has any issues with the competence of Justice Umar Atta Bandial, who was recently elevated to the Supreme Court; the appointment of Justice Athar Minallah of the Islamabad High Court, or that of reputed lawyers Syed Saeeduddin Nasir, Mohammad Iqbal Kalhoro or Shahid Sarki as judges of the Sindh High Court (SHC).

The appointment of Justice Amir Raza Naqvi in the SHC is being construed as a clear message that there is no harm in accommodating competent and honest judges who were affected by the July 31, 2009 judgment against judges who took oath under the second Provisional Constitution Order, promulgated by former president Pervez Musharraf.

There is no harm in considering experienced, competent and honest judges who still haven’t achieved superannuation and can serve the superior judiciary if they weren’t affected by the July 31, 2009 judgment, said senior counsel Yasin Azad, a member who represents the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) in the Judicial Commission.

He acknowledged that the respect and dignity of the Supreme Court had enhanced under Chief Justice Jillani, but said the chief justice should have taken suo motu notice of the June 17 Lahore incident which claimed the lives of 10 people.

Former Supreme Court Bar Association president Tariq Mehmood said the hallmarks of court proceedings during Chief Justice Jillani’s short time in Courtroom No 1 were “discipline and decorum”.

He appreciated the patient hearing Chief Justice Jillani granted to a number of review petitions against judgments delivered by his predecessor, especially from politicians who were disqualified under Article 63(1g) of the Constitution.

Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry was a strong but controversial judge, while Chief Justice Jillani did not overstep his authority to interfere in administrative affairs or government policies, said former attorney general Irfan Qadir.

PBC Vice-Chairman Moh­am­­mad Ramzan Chaudhry, however, was critical of Chief Justice Jillani for what he called a hesitance to take bold decisions. The chief justice should have revisited the ‘controversial’ July 31, 2009 judgment, he said.