All rise!

0
82

The new chief justice inherits a number of challenges

It is too early to tell. Zhou Enlai’s cryptic – sometimes disputed – remark when asked to comment on the significance of the French Revolution.

Granted, there were no guillotines during the lawyers’ movement, but it was a swashbuckling period, that year of living dangerously. And what followed was also an eventful period of confrontation. But still, as the iconic chief justice leaves, should one resist the impulse to talk about legacies? When passions, for and against the man, dissipate, perhaps it is only then when one could clearly wrap ones head around the true significance of the events. Is it, in fact, too early to tell?

For now, we would observe a safer subject. One that is distinct from – though intricately linked with – the aforementioned legacy issues of the former chief justice: the challenges faced by the new one and his responses to them.

_____________________________________________

‘Ultimately, good fences make for good neighbours. A measure of restraint would do the judiciary a whole lot of good if it is to retain the relative independence and power that it has come to enjoy in the recent years.’

_____________________________________________

First and foremost, the new chief justice, like his predecessor before him, inherits a large backlog. Settling cases is a Sisyphean task, much like bailing water out of a leaky boat with a small utensil. But one that needs to be done. Justice delayed is justice denied; justice hurried is justice buried. That balance is going to be quite a tightrope walk.

Then on, is the issue of boundaries. The past couple of years have been subject to much debate on the institutions of the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. The problem here is that a verdict on any tussle between these is to be given by the judiciary itself. That presents a problem, especially given the penchant, in the Iftikhar years, of the judiciary deciding things unanimously. Institutional activism when standing up for the rights and respect of a fellow judge is one thing, misinterpreting it for a lemming-like groupthink is quite another.

Ultimately, good fences make for good neighbours. A measure of restraint would do the judiciary a whole lot of good if it is to retain the relative independence and power that it has come to enjoy in the recent years. Also, a realization that it is not its job to please people when giving judgments; the robes shouldn’t play to the gallery. That is the lot of the political class and even they, if we are to grow up as a polity, should have the gumption to take unpopular decisions.

_____________________________________________

‘History might not remember the PPP as the petulant child the media painted it out to be but a government quite respectful of the judiciary. Whether the League is going to follow in those footsteps remains to be seen. It hasn’t faced a hostile judiciary in quite a while. We all know the results of the last time it did.’

_____________________________________________

To segue on to the political class, history might not remember the PPP as the petulant child the media painted it out to be but a government quite respectful of the judiciary. Whether the League is going to follow in those footsteps remains to be seen. It hasn’t faced a hostile judiciary in quite a while. We all know the results of the last time it did.