[Dawn 21 November 2019] ISLAMABAD: In what appears to be a response to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s criticism of the judiciary, Chief Justice of Pakistan Asif Saeed Khosa said on Wednesday that permission to Nawaz Sharif to go abroad was granted by the prime minister himself as the Lahore High Court (LHC) had only set modalities in this regard.
“Do not hurl taunts at us for favouring the powerful, because everybody is equal before us,” the CJP observed a day after the prime minister asked the top judges to end the impression about the judiciary favouring the powerful.
Recalling that courts had convicted a prime minister and disqualified another, the chief justice — while raising his fists the way former president retired Gen Pervez Musharraf had done so on May 12, 2007, — said a decision in a case against a former army chief was about to come. “Are these examples not before you?” CJP Khosa remarked while referring to Gen Musharraf’s trial, which will be decided on Nov 28.
The CJP said a “silent revolution” had already come about and therefore those criticising judges should be careful. He said: “Times have changed. Now we are totally independent and decide matters strictly in accordance with the law.”
CJP Khosa was speaking at the inauguration ceremony of a mobile app, Call Centre, complete video link facility in five courtrooms of the Supreme Court, research centre and enhanced website to facilitate litigants and lawyers.
On Monday, Prime Minister Imran Khan, while addressing the opening ceremony of the Havelian-Mansehra section of Hazara motorway, had asked the CJP and Justice Gulzar Ahmed to come forward and “restore public trust by ending the impression about favouring the powerful against the poor”.
In his usual polite demeanour, the chief justice said he would like to respond in Urdu, but explained that he would not comment on the “imbalance” as the matter was sub judice.
The chief justice, however, welcomed the PM’s announcement about diverting resources to judicial reforms. “We are really feeling the pinch of fewer resources,” he said.
Highlighting several milestones the judiciary had achieved, the chief justice said 3,100 judges up to the superior judiciary had decided 3.6 million cases last year. “And except for one or two powerful individuals, all of the litigants belong to the weak, downtrodden class,” he explained.
The CJP said it was the judiciary that had come to the help and relief of the common man, rejecting the impression being developed. He said the decision of 3.6m cases could not be ignored.
“Please reconsider your statement about the imbalance in dispensing justice,” CJP Khosa said, reminding Mr Khan that he was an elected representative and chief executive of the country. “We have great respect for him.”
He said the judiciary was functioning under meagre resources, yet the judges managed to end the entire pendency of criminal cases since 1994. There was no backlog, except two in the Lahore registry of the Supreme Court and 20 at its principal seat in Islamabad.
And all these cases belonged to the downtrodden and there was no imbalance between the powerful and the poor, the chief justice reiterated.
He also spoke about the judiciary’s initiative to run model courts without advertising the move. He said 187 days of hard work helped in attaining zero pendency of murder cases in 17 districts and six district headquarters. Similarly, there was zero pendency of narcotics cases in 23 districts, he added.
About the trial before magistrate courts, the chief justice recalled how four districts had no backlog whereas 20 districts were without any civil appeal.
In a similar manner, the 20 districts and 14 DHQs were without any family-related cases before the family courts and there was no rent matter in 20 districts and 26 DHQs.
About 73,302 trials had been conducted during the past 187 days, the CJP said, adding that the apex court decided one of the murder cases in just 10 days.
“We have entered into a new era,” the CJP observed, asking leaders not to criticise the judges, because they were burning the midnight oil without asking for extra remuneration. “We have not asked the parliament or the government to amend any law or ever demanded extra expense,” he said, adding that this was the level of dedication the judiciary had shown. CJP Khosa said the establishment of complaint cells at SP offices helped in minimizing workload on courts. He said high courts received 15pc less writ petitions against police.
Earlier, the CJP narrated the famous maxim of Neil Armstrong who while landing his lunar module on the moon had stated: “Eagle has landed”. And the second statement, he said, was that though a small step but a giant leap for the mankind.
“So the judicial eagle has landed, bringing us on a par with all the developed states in the world.”
The launch of the Smartphone App that Nadra has developed on a state-of-the-art platform will help litigants, lawyers, media persons, judges and citizens to access the status of their cases, schedule of cases, latest judgements, search cause list and roster of sittings.
In order to address queries and complaints directly, the apex court also launched a new call centre at 1818 for people to access cause list, judgement, case search, roster and process-related queries on a phone call. Nadra had already deployed the requisite infrastructure, trained personnel and developed a standard operating procedure in establishing the call centre.