Judiciary yes, but little justice


Candid Corner


A contagious malaise spreading across judicial echelons


The order of granting an interim bail to convict Nawaz Sharif is as weird in its formulation as it is gross in its rationale.

Citing health reasons, the Supreme Court Bench headed by Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, and comprising Justice Sajjad Ali Shah and Justice Yahya Afridi, decided to suspend the sentence handed down by the accountability court and grant convict Sharif bail for a period of six weeks. During this time, he would neither leave, nor be allowed to leave the country. After the expiry of the bail period, the convict shall surrender to custody voluntarily, failing which, he shall be arrested.

It is important to note that during his submissions before the SC Bench, Sharif’s lawyer said that “his client needed a stress-free environment to think about getting treatment from the doctors of his choice”. This is in spite of the fact that the government had repeatedly offered him treatment in any hospital of the country. He had even been allowed to call his personal physician from abroad.

Judiciary is on course to effectively burying the concept of justice, or has it already been put to the sword à la a contemporary version of the infamous doctrine of necessity?

One of the cardinal pillars of justice rests on the premise that all are equal before law which is also to be administered equitably. Now, among hundreds of thousands of convicts serving their respective sentences throughout the country’s jails, a very large number would be suffering from serious, even life-threatening ailments, thus undergoing mental stress. By extending the logic used as the basis for the current order, they, too, shall have the right to apply for relief on the grounds that they require a “stress-free environment” for treatment.

The courts shall, thenceforth, have two options: either grant the request, or reject it.

In case it is granted, the cause of (absence of) justice as established in Sharif’s case shall be reiterated. If, however, the courts refuse to entertain such petitions which can be potentially moved as a sequel to this order, the very basis of granting relief shall stand mangled.

So, while we have the possibility of scores of interned criminals getting bailed out on the plea of treatment of their choice in an environment of their choosing, we also have the prospect of them being denied a relief that has been provided to another convict who is serving his time in jail for indulging in a remorseless spree of plunder of the state resources and causing it irreparable damage in the international arena.

On both counts, the cause of the judiciary stands to lose heavily in its reputation as also its writ to have its adjudications implemented. It will have no one else to blame for the consequent loss of respect except its own contemptible understanding, appreciation and interpretation of the case concerning convict Sharif.

The world knew full well that an organised campaign had been unleashed to get convict Sharif out of jail not because he was unduly sick, or there was any danger to his life, but because he needed to be out to keep his political career and those of his progeny alive. Let’s not overlook some hard-core realities in the matter of the convict who has been provided unprecedented relief. His two sons, Hassan and Hussain, have been absconders for months now. His daughter was also awarded eight years and is out on bail after the court suspended her sentence. The former finance minister, whose son is married to the convict’s daughter, is also an absconder. His younger brother, Shehbaz Sharif, who was the chief minister of Punjab for ten consecutive years, has been accused of indulgence in corruption and corrupt practices and is currently out on bail. The latter’s son-in-law is also an absconder.

Hail the Caesars of the times! Hail the judiciary!

With this gruesome history, one fails to understand the apex court’s keenness to extend special treatment to a convict which has no precedence in the annals of jurisprudence and which may irremediably imperil the cause of justice in the country. Coming soon after that dubious judgment in the case of Riaz Malik, it smacks of compromise of judicial norms and measure.

Why is it that the judiciary appears to be becoming increasingly discriminatory in administering justice to the people with the rich and the privileged being treated as more equal, and the poor toiling incessantly to even be heard? It is also being speculated that the state or its institutions, judiciary included, would not be able to bear the burden of convict Sharif dying in prison. But, that’s not the fear the state expresses concerning hundreds of thousands of other people who have been incarcerated for years, at times without a credible reason, and are in extremely poor health. Why not grant them the same concern as equal citizens of the country?

But, no, they cannot be treated on a par with the likes of convict Sharif because they neither have the illicit billions made by looting the state, nor do they have the connections to approach the powers for relief. They are the scum of this land and must suffer its writ with sealed lips.

Why can’t they raise a voice? Why must they not raise a voice to be treated as convict Sharif has been treated? Why can’t they be granted the same extraordinary privilege that convict Sharif has been granted? Or, is it that it is a different law that is applicable to them, and the law which has been applied to provide extraordinary relief to convict Sharif is not relevant for them?

A contagious malaise has spread wide among the judicial echelons. It is generally presumed that the Sharifs and Zardaris are guaranteed orders of their choice from the Lahore and Sindh high courts respectively. The order to stop the newly-formed JIT from operating by the LHC, or the removal of Shehbaz Sharif’s name from the ECL, or restoring the suspended police officers in Punjab, or provisioning protective bails to the Zardari siblings and coming to the rescue of a large coterie of the accused in Sindh by the SHC as a matter of routine are grave manifestations of the judicial system having been hijacked by the roving mafias of the corrupt and the criminal. In the instant case of granting interim relief to convict Sharif, the apex court has taken a grievous plunge into the deepening quagmire of complicity.

Judiciary and justice are intertwined with judiciary supposed to deliver justice under the most trying of circumstances. In this country, unfortunately, judiciary and justice have become two separate commodities with the judiciary failing to deliver justice that would be equitable for all irrespective of their stature or placement in society which is guaranteed under clause 25 of the constitution: “All citizens are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of law”.

It looks like the judiciary enacts or applies laws differently in different cases commensurate with the stature that certain accused may have held, or the extent of corruption that they may have indulged in. This is not justice. This is vile travesty of justice. Instead of addressing existing aberrations, this fundamental flaw, so blatantly promoted as in the case of passing the order granting convict Sharif interim bail, creates issues of its own which are not easily remediable. It generates fissures along unnatural divides which will, in time, wreck the very foundations on which the dwindling edifice of the society stands.

If allowed to proceed along this course, judiciary shall move to formally adopting two judicial systems in the country: one applicable to the rich and the corrupt and the other to the poor and the marginalised. That would effectively bury the concept of justice, or has it already been put to the sword à la a contemporary version of the infamous doctrine of necessity?

Hail the Caesars of the times! Hail the judiciary!