Full Court reference: ‘Suo motu allowed to curb corruption, challenges’

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Chief Justice of Pakistan designate Justice Gulzar Ahmed Friday said corruption and illegalities in all state departments need to be seriously addressed and eliminated root and branch.

He said this while addressing a Full Court reference held at the Supreme Court on the eve of retirement of Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa.

The reference was attended by all the judges except Justice Qazi Faez Isa who is on leave as well as Attorney General Anwar Mansoor Khan for being abroad. Justice Khosa was set to retire midnight Friday and Justice Gulzar Ahmed will take oath today (Saturday) as the 27th Chief Justice of Pakistan.

Justice Gulzar said the persons involved in such activities need to be dealt with deterrence for this was the most basic and fundamental scourge that did not allow the country to grow and prosper.

He said using the suo motu powers was also part of the Constitution. Paying rich tribute to Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa, Justice Gulzar said his decisions had been a delight to read for those within the legal profession and those without.

“These decisions have served momentous additions to the tapestry of our national jurisprudential story, especially in the realm of criminal law. My Lord has done the nation a great service by clarifying once murky questions and ensuring that the criminal defendants have access to the procedural protections, necessary for justice to prevail,” he said.

“In Khizar Hayat case (PLD 2019 SC 527), My Lord has written a monumental opinion dealing with famous legal maxim ‘falsus in uno,falsus in omnibus’,” he said, adding that Justice Khosa had explained that not adhering to this legal maxim had created serious social conditions, where witnesses were given licence to tell lies or to mix truth with falsehood and burden shifted upon the court of sifting grain from the chaff.

“My Lord has empathetically held that telling lies and falsehood is a perjury and should be dealt with in accordance with the law and that the Islamic principle as enjoined in the Holy Quran, does not permit telling of lies and giving of false evidence in court,” Justice Gulzar said.

He said the most essential need of the time was that the state should build and provide for civic infrastructure so also the civil infrastructure, and such should be done and achieved, keeping in line with the time and pace of the ever-progressing world.

Speaking on the occasion, the outgoing Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Asif Saeed Khosa said a malicious smear campaign had been launched against him and the judiciary after the Special Court announced its detailed verdict in the high-treason case against ex-military dictator General (R) Pervez Musharraf.

Before commencing his written address, Justice Khosa said a malicious smear campaign was launched not only against him but also the judiciary after the detailed verdict was announced in the high treason case. He, however, said there was not truth in the allegations levelled against him.

“I strongly reject the allegations and believe that truth always prevails,” he said. In his written address, Justice Khosa said he always strived to live up to his oath of office and tried to administer justice according to law and without fear or favour, affection or ill-will.

“The footprints of my judicial career span over a period of about 22 years and it may be found in almost every aspect of criminal and constitutional law and a student of law may find that throughout these years I have tried to consolidate legal knowledge on different aspects and have also made attempts to resolve conflicting opinions on diverse legal issues,” the CJP said.

Justice Khosa said he always did what he thought was right and was worth doing. “It did not matter to me as to what the reaction or consequences would or could be,” said the outgoing CJP.

Justice Khosa said he was laying down his robes “with a conscience, which is as clear as crystal.” Justice Khosa said he had always given 100 percent dedication to his nearly 20-year career in the judiciary.

“I always did what I thought was right and was worth doing. I tried to perform beyond the call of duty, never raised my voice, spoke mainly through my pen, never delayed a judgment unduly,” he said.

He said a judge must have the nerves of steel and a heart of lion. Justice Khosa said he could not judge if his legal opinions were correct but hoped that history would look upon him favorably and find the sincerity of his efforts.

He said during his tenure as chief justice, he had discouraged the practice of adjournments and helped reduce a massive backlog of pending appeals. “An all-out effort was undertaken to put our house in order with an approach focused on improving the justice delivery system,” he said, adding, “image of court as a dignified judicial forum sitting at the apex of judicial hierarchy was maintained, the principle of separation of powers was adhered to, judicial restraint was exercised and dignity and respect was ensured for all appearing before the court as lawyers, litigants or officials.”

He said his tenure as the Chief Justice of Pakistan lasted for a little over 11 months, or 337 days to be exact adding that if the weekends and gazetted holidays were excluded, he had about 235 working days in that capacity.

Initially, that period appeared to be too short to make any meaningful contribution but in hindsight, it appears to be long enough for taking some critical steps and for initiating reforms in the justice sector.

He said the principle of “falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus” (a Latin term meaning “false in one thing, false in everything”) was reintroduced in our legal system because in the absence of truthful testimonies justice may only be illusory while the rampant practice of seeking and granting adjournments was effectively discouraged so as to minimise delays in disposition of cases.

He further said video-linkage was established between the Principal Seat of this Court at Islamabad and its Branch Registries at Quetta, Peshawar, Karachi and Lahore facilitating lawyers to argue their cases from their own stations rather than travelling to and staying at Islamabad for that purpose.

“Huge expenditure, which the litigant public had to incur in this regard previously is now substantially curtailed. This step also makes it possible for the lawyers to attend to their other cases fixed at their local stations on the same day. The elderly lawyers whose mobility has become restricted on account of age are availing themselves of this facility with great satisfaction. Twenty-five years of backlog of criminal appeals pending with the court has been wiped out.

“During the last 235 working days as many as 15,555 cases have been decided by this court despite many larger benches of the court having remained busy with some important cases consuming a lot of time,” said the CJP.

He lauded the executive authorities and the police leadership for their fullest cooperation in every initiative taken and successfully executed. “Their support in all such endeavours and ventures shall be cherished by me for the rest of my life,” he said.

Justice Khosa praised his personal staff and law clerks saying without their tireless and ungrudging support and cooperation nothing of the above could have been achieved.

“I, however, in all humility at my command, seek forgiveness from all those in whose cases my judgment might have gone wrong unwittingly and also from those whose feelings I might have hurt unintentionally. Allah Almighty is most forgiving and He likes those who forgive,” the outgoing CJP concluded.

The reference was also addressed by Vice Chairman Pakistan Bar Council Syed Amjad Shah and President Supreme Court Bar Association Syed Qalb-e Hassan