Justice discards party, friendship and kindred and is therefore referred to as blind. Judgment is like a pair of scales and evidence like the weight, but it will hold the balance in its hand and even a slight jerk can be sufficient to make the lighter scale appear to be the heavier one. During World War II, when the UK was at a standstill due to war atrocities, someone asked Winston Churchill for a way out. His famous response to the question was, “If our courts are working and providing justice, the nation is safe.” The sentiments of justice are so natural and so universally accepted by all mankind that it seems to be independent of all creed, cast and culture.
In the recent past, Pakistan’s judiciary triumphed after the lawyers movement for the independence of the judiciary, which came under criticism in the wake of certain controversies. Since the restoration of Chief Justice (CJ) Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, certain decisions and remarks made by judges during case proceedings have left an impression of extenuation. Yet, the axiom of Iftikhar Chaudhry, “Justice for all”, through his famous suo motu notices raised the common man’s hopes for timely access to prompt justice.
Although a certain section of lawyers and so-called human rights activists criticised this judicial activism by the former justice, the higher judiciary under the former CJ indisputably gained a huge following among the populace. His term in the Supreme Court (SC) can be summarised as liked by the masses but detested by the elite.
Sadly, the popular support that the judiciary had gained during Iftikhar Chaudhry’s tenure appears to be thinning today. The vile scenes from the Model Town killings and disparaging and violent behaviour of the government towards common Pakistanis sitting in the dharnas (sit-ins) has raised many questions over the silence of the superior judiciary. A consensus is building among people that the much-ballyhooed slogans of ‘constitution’ and ‘democracy’ are made only to protect the rulers and their rule and not to guard the people’s rights.
Laws and constitutions are made for the facilitation of the citizens and for the protection of their civic rights. People are not made for laws and the constitution; it is always the other way around. The SC, the guardian and interpreter of the constitution, is once again being looked upon by ordinary Pakistanis for the deliverance of “justice for all”.
In Pakistan, certain institutions, including parliament and the judiciary, are unanswerable and unaccountable to anyone. Any word against them is taken as contemptuous and is duly punishable one way or another. Why are we not vigilant when the rights of a common citizen are violated? Should that not be counted as contempt? The derogatory remarks made by parliamentarians about respectable citizens protesting in the dharnas are deplorable. They were referred to as gypsies, vagabonds, lashkaris and even terrorists by the so-called public representatives in history’s longest joint sessions. One cleric-cum-politician even went to the extent of using non-parliamentary language against womenfolk, who make up almost 54 percent of our nation. The speeches delivered on the floor of the house drew a distinct line between the rights of the rulers and a common man, discernibly defending the former and expanding the gap between the privileged and the downtrodden.
Justice is itself the great standing policy of civic society and any departure from it, under any circumstances, lies under the auspices of there being no policy at all. Judges ought to be more learned than witty, more revered than plausible and more advised than confident. Above all, integrity is their position and proper virtue. Judges speak through their decisions. At this critical juncture in our history, amidst the violation of human rights, insecurities about the sovereignty of the country, atrocities of the ruling class and traces of an inevitable civil war, only the judiciary can carry out proper justice and give hope to many in society.