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Lawyers are among the most knowledgeable segment of a society: Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry

Islamabad, January 03, 2013 (PPI-OT):

Learned Chief Justice, Lahore High Court;
Hafiz Abdul Sami Khokhar, President District Bar Association, Jhelum
Office Bearers of the Bar Associations;
Learned Members of the Bar;
Ladies And Gentlemen:

Assalam-O-Alaikum!

It is a matter of immense pleasure for me to participate and speak at the Annual Function of the Jhelum Bar Association. The district Jhelum lies at the heart of Pothohar Region which is famous for its rugged terrain, hard working farmers and brave soldiers.

It has the singular honour of providing the highest number of soldiers and officers to the armed forces of the country. The lawyers’ community of this district has also earned a respectable name due to their commitment for the rule of law and supremacy of the Constitution in the country.

The Bench and the Bar are the two pillars on which the edifice of justice rests. Members of both are involved in the delivery of justice, and in building a credible and upright judicial system, which evokes confidence and respect. Lawyers are trustees of justice.

They have important duties to perform in ensuring the protection of fundamental rights of people and avoidance of injustice. They should use their knowledge and argumentative skills for defending the interest of their clients, and also contribute to society by highlighting nationally important matters, and the causes of the weaker sections.

Historically, legal luminaries have always played a major role in the affairs of nations. In Pakistan, they have been at the forefront of providing leadership to the freedom struggle and winning independence for nation. Similarly, in our Constituent Assembly, members of the legal profession contributed greatly to finalize the structure of our Constitution, which lays down the powers and jurisdictions of the Legislature, Executive and Judiciary. Besides, it assures to all its citizens, the political, social and economic justice.

The lawyers equally contributed to the framing of beneficial and welfare legislation for the common good of the people. That is why lawyers are best defined as Social Engineers, from whose architecture the shape of the welfare state is designed.

They also provide assistance to Courts on legal issues involved in different cases. Because of the intellectual and wise arguments of the Lawyers we have been able to enrich our jurisprudence and the superior courts delivered land mark judgments.

There is no denying the fact that globalization and the changing dimensions of our country’s economy and polity have thrown up new challenges of governance. Rule of law in all its dimensions remains the single most important challenge the country is facing.

You are well aware that in a democracy the people delegate certain powers to their chosen representatives which forms the government, including a monopoly on the use of force. To prevent the abuse of this power, most democracies are divided into branches of government, incorporating a system of checks and balances to ensure that no one branch predominates. Our constitutional set up also rests on trichotomy of powers, with an independent judiciary as an integral part of this system, playing a particularly important role in overseeing arbitrary use of authority or misuse of power, etc.

All of you know that the country witnessed unprecedented changes in the wake of lawyers’ movement resulting into a healthy debate about the need to ‘change our old habits’ where expediencies held sway over rule of law and supremacy of the constitution.

This movement for rule of law, supremacy of Constitution and independence of judiciary instilled a new spirit and provided a common platform to lawyers to cooperate with one another for larger good of the society, because it was the struggle for the principles.

The legal profession is undoubtedly a noble one in the sense that its members are equally responsible for the administration of justice and as a practitioner of law, they have to behave like an epitome of rule of law and incarnation of supremacy of the constitution. Lawyers are among the most active and knowledgeable segment of a society.

They play a leading role in moulding the public opinion on important issue of public policy and service delivery. In some cases, they even drive the destiny of their nations, such as who can deny the aplomb of our founding father Mr. Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the dreamer/national poet of Pakistan Mr. Allama Muhammad Iqbal and such like many other great personalities of the last century.

Therefore, being lawyers it is your added responsibility to fully make yourself well versed with the challenges being faced by both the bench and the bar in view of raised expectations of people. Unless and until the lawyers are committed to their job, the output of the institution cannot sustain improvement. Remember, there is no immunity for anyone ‘come what may’ and everyone has to follow rule of law. It is high time that this sea change in our constitutional and political history is accepted by all without any exception.

There is no denying the fact that the well deserved and hard earned respect enjoyed by the higher judiciary today is a result of the struggle by the lawyers, members of the civil society, activists of political parties, the print and electronic media. The movement’s success represented an important sign of increasing judicial empowerment in a nation where courts had long followed the dictates of either the ruling elite or authoritative regimes.

These new developments have even inspired national and international activists and experts to reassess their previous conclusions about the country. Now, certainly, it should be our endeavour to protect that honour and respect, while ensure speedy justice and across-the-board accountability to maintain and sustain its present position. Because in any democratic system, the judiciary has to act independently just like other two state organs, the legislature and the executive, to achieve the goals and objects of the constitution.

Remember, the role of the judiciary under the constitution is a pious trust reposed by the people. The judiciary therefore has to strive hard to meet the public expectations. It must not fail. It has to deliver and execute the heavy responsibilities devolved on its shoulders in the shape of gained public trust and confidence. Therefore, the Judiciary in Pakistan has become the last refuge for people who come forward to redress their grievances and resolve their common disputes.

The principle of trichotomy of powers mandated by the Constitution of Pakistan aims at strengthening all the three pillars of States by giving them complete independence in their respective domains. While the judiciary as the custodian of the Constitution and the ultimate protector of the rights of citizens, had to keep a check on extra-constitutional acts and the arbitrary exercise of power by other institutions and authorities so as to promote the democratic governance and rule of law. It is often misunderstood that the judiciary acts against the measures and steps of the executive but it is the Constitution which provides this important role to the judiciary to regulate the state machinery.

Regardless of one’s view on the issue of “Judicial Activism”, our country since the time of Chief Justice Muhammad Haleem and Muhammad Afzal Zullah has also endeavoured to ensure implementation of fundamental rights to the citizens as enshrined in the Constitution by taking suo moto notices in wider public interest.

That being the constitutional requirement obliging Courts to ensure that the constitution is adhered to, and this may even require them to use punitive sanctions against those who flout the law. Admittedly, such progress, transparency, and democratic empowerment could not have been possible without the work of three generations of lawyers in Pakistan who were committed to creating a permanent constitutional democracy.

At the same time, I also urge you never to negate your duty to fight for justice, the rule of law, constitutionalism, and independence of the judiciary and stay peaceful while keeping yourself away from boycotting the Court’s proceedings un-necessarily, because in such an event the ultimate sufferers of such strikes would be the litigant public.

The Bench and the Bar should work in a friendly atmosphere while maintaining a professional distance along with dignity, appreciation and respect for each other. On the other hand, the District Judiciary which primarily represents the over all image of the judicial system to the general public, and where the litigant parties initially come into contact with the justice system, should also gear up to meet the challenge and come up to their expectations.

I am fully aware of the anxiety of the respected members of the Bar, over the decisions of the NJPMC taken on 3rd November, 2012, wherein the target date for the disposal of oldest cases is fixed for December 31, 2012, while keeping in view the high expectations of the people from the judiciary to restore their rights and play its important role to maintain peace by sending the guilty behind the bars as well as the assurance given by the respective District Judiciary, that they would achieve the target for disposing of the oldest cases within the prescribed time period.

Ladies and Gentlemen, while bearing in mind the golden principle of law that “Justice should not only be done, but it must also be seen to have been done”, the implementation of National Judicial Policy is a step towards this commitment, launched in the year 2009 with the aims to reduce and finally eliminate the backlog of cases in all levels of the courts, by employing various methods, which include prioritization of cases, and giving time limits for disposal of different types of civil and criminal cases. Moreover, since pay and packages of judicial officers have been increased recently, therefore, they should leave no stone unturned in discharging their duties in most fair and dedicated manner.

This is the time for realisation and to account for the loopholes in judicial system and what is to be done and what is being done. This is time to step forward and assume our roles and duties. Every step towards the goal of justice requires sacrifice, tireless efforts and passionate concern of dedicated individuals. Therefore, being wheels of the same chariot of justice, the bench and bar should endeavour individually and collectively to achieve the common objective of administration of justice.

I hope that the situation could improve and multidimensional approach must be adopted for further improving the implementation of the policy, taking into account the current areas needed to be addressed. Dialogue between the bench, the bar and other stakeholders should be encouraged by creating a sense of ownership about the policy.

I will be looking forward to your valuable suggestions, recommendations for taking up the matter in our fourth coming policy meetings. I assure you that all your concerns about changes in the Judicial Policy will be adequately addressed for making it more responsive to the needs and requirements of all the stakeholders. However, I must conclude by saying that we all have to raise the bar of our personal contributions to achieve the target of providing easy and substantial justice to the people at the minimum cost.

Thank you very much.

For more information, contact:
Shahid Hussain Kamboyo
Public Relations Officer
Supreme Court of Pakistan
Tel: +9251 920 4184
Fax: +9251 920 1001
Email: pro_scp@yahoo.com

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