An open letter to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan
Mr. Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry
Supreme Court of Pakistan
I write this letter as an Officer of the Supreme Court of Pakistan; as an Advocate enrolled in the apex Court since 1984 and in the High
Courts since 1972; as an Attorney who has paid more income tax from his earnings in the legal profession than many of my friends,
colleagues and seniors elevated to the Bench; and as a stake-holder in the dispensation of justice, intimately and vitally interested in
the functioning of the Supreme Court.
Many judges who adorn the Bench in the Supreme Court and the High Court know me over decades, as a person endowed by nature with a pleasant disposition and acceptance of human failings. Towards the courts, my approach has always been of consistent and continuous display of respect and humility. I bow out of conviction, not compulsion. I use the words "My Lords", because I want to, not because I have to. As an Attorney, I look up to the Court and want to see it on a high pedestal of dignity, compassion and justice, tempered with mercy.
I have seen my Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Hamood-ur-Rahman, Chief Justice Muhammad Yaqub Ali, Chief Justice S. Anwar-ul-Haq, Chief Justice Mohammad Haleem and how the Court functioned under them in the 1970s/1980s.
I witnessed the proceedings for the ouster of Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, became aware that the then Prime Minister of Pakistan, Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, had 'worked' on some judges of the Supreme Court and saw the physical assault on the Court.
I was appalled at the manner in which Chief Justice Irshad Hasan Khan led the Supreme Court and pained at the insinuations against Justice Sheikh Riaz Ahmad, when he was the Chief Justice.
I was horrified by the establishment of a Bench of five judges constituted by Chief Justice Nazim Hussain Siddiqui to determine whether reduction in the retirement age for judges was constitutional or not. This was clearly designed to block your appointment. I was against the idea of Mr. Amirul Mulk Mengal being made the Chief Justice before you. Within the limits of my influence (which I readily admit to be very limited), I was totally for you to become the Chief Justice. Justice Javed Buttar is aware of my position, as is the Attorney General of Pakistan. The accelerated issue of the notification appointing you the Chief Justice put Justice Siddiqui's move to rest.
I believed that you were vigorous, capable of lifting up the Supreme Court, creating an espirit-de-corps among your brother judges, restoring the dignity and grandeur of the apex Court, particularly considering the long tenure before you.
Alas this has not come about.
I am not perturbed by your insistence on protocol (despite my belief that the Chief Justice would rise in the eyes of everybody if he walked from his residence to the Supreme Court and hooters, police escort, flags is just fluff, not the substance of an office).
I am mildly amused at your desire to be presented a guard of honour in Peshawar. I am titillated by the appropriation of aMercedes-Benz car or is it cars, the use of the Government of the Punjab's airplane to offer Fateha in Multan, to Sheikhupura for Fateha on a Government of the Punjab helicopter, to Hyderabad on a Government of the Sind's plane for attending a High Court function, the huge amount spent in refurbishing the chamber and residence of the Chief Justice, the reservation for yourself of a wing in Supreme Court Judges guest house in Lahore, the permanent occupation by the Supreme Court of the official residence of the Chief Justice of Sind, who per force lives in the basement of his father's house. As his class fellow in the Government College, Lahore, I can vouch that living in the basement will do him no harm.
I am not perturbed that Dr. Arsalaan (your son) secured 16/100 in the English paper for the Civil Services Examination, that there is a case against him in some court in Baluchistan, that from the Health Department in Baluchistan he has shifted to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), that he has obtained training in the Police Academy, that he reportedly drives a BMW 7-Series car, that there is a complaint against him with the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
My grievances and protests are different.
I am perturbed that the Supreme Court should issue a clarificatory statement on his behalf. I am perturbed that Justice (Retd.) Wajihuddin Ahmed should be constrained to advise you on television that "people who live in glass houses should not throw stones at others". I am perturbed that the Chief Justice should summon Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman to his chambers on Dr. Arsalaan's account.
I am appalled that you announce decisions in Court, while in the written judgment an opposite conclusion is recorded.
In the Petition for leave to appeal filed by Dr. Sher Afghan Niazi, Federal Minister for Parliamentary Affairs (in which Respondent's Counsels were Mr. Khalid Anwar and Mr. Qadir Saeed), you refused to grant leave in open Court and yet in the written order, leave was granted to Dr. Sher Afghan Niazi.
On 15-2-2007, Mr. Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim complained that in open Court you had accepted his appeal but dismissed the same in the judgement, subsequently recorded.
If Mr. Khalid Anwar, a former Minister of Law and Parliamentary Affairs, and Mr Fakrhuddin, Senior Counsel, are treated in this manner, the fate of lesser known lawyers would certainly be far worse.
My grievances also concern the manner in which the last and highest court of appeal is dispensing justice, under your leadership.
My Lord, the dignity of lawyers is consistently being violated by you. We are treated harshly, rudely, brusquely and nastily. We are not heard. We are not allowed to present our case. There is little scope for advocacy. The words used in the Bar Room for Court No. 1 are "the slaughter house". We are cowed down by aggression from the Bench, led by you. All we receive from you is arrogance, aggression and belligerence. You also throw away the file, while contemptuously announcing: "This is dismissed".
Yet this aggression is not for everyone. When Mr. Sharifuddin Pirzada appears, your Lordship's demeanour and appearance is not just sugar and honey. You are obsequious to the point of meekness. So apart from violating our dignity, which the Constitution commands to be inviolable, we suffer discrimination in your Court.
I am not raising the issue of verbal onslaughts and threats to Police Officers and other Civil Servants, who have the misfortune to be summoned, degraded and reminded that "This is the Supreme Court".
The way in which My Lord conducts proceedings is not conducive to the process of justice. In fact, it obstructs due process and constitutes contempt of the Supreme Court itself.
I am pained at the wide publicity to cases taken up by My Lord in the Supreme Court under the banner of Fundamental Rights. The proceedings before the Supreme Court can conveniently and easily be referred to the District and Sessions Judges. I am further pained by the media coverage of the Supreme Court on the recovery of a female. In the bar room, this is referred to as a "Media Circus".
My Lord, this communication may anger you and you are in any case prone to get angry in a flash, but do reflect upon it. Perhaps you are not cognizant of what your brother judges feel and say about you.
My Lord, before a rebellion arises among your brother judges (as in the case of Mr. Justice Sajjad Ali Shah), before the Bar stands up collectively and before the entire matter is placed before the Supreme Judicial Council, there may be time to change and make amends.
I hope you have the wisdom and courage to make these amends and restore serenity, calm, compassion, patience and justice tempered with mercy to my Supreme Court.
My Lord, we all live in the womb of time and are judged, both by the present and by history. The judgement about you, being rendered in the present, is adverse in the extreme.
Supreme Court of