ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court on Friday declared unconstitutional the steps taken by former military ruler Gen (r) Pervez Musharraf on November 3, 2007 including the imposition of emergency, promulgation of Provisional Constitution Order (PCO) and sacking of as many as 61 judges of the higher judiciary. Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, heading the 14-member bench that heard the judges case, announced the unanimous verdict to this effect in a court full of lawyers, journalists, and political and civil society activists. The apex court also declared unconstitutional the appointment of Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar as the Chief Justice of Pakistan, thus nullifying all the appointments made in the higher judiciary with his consultation. The PCO judges were found guilty of misconduct, were suspended and were thereby referred to the Supreme Judicial Council. The total number of Judges of the Supreme Court, after yesterdays verdict, now stands at 16 plus the Chief Justice. The present democratic dispensation, however, is protected in the judgment and the general elections of February 18, 2008 and the government formed as a result of the elections has been declared constitutional. The larger bench invalidated the Supreme Court judgment in Tikka Muhammad Iqbal case, which had validated the imposition of emergency and promulgation of PCO by Gen (r) Pervez Musharraf, thus invalidating all the steps taken by former dictator during the suspension of the 1973 Constitution during November 3, 2007 and December 15, 2007. The SC judgment in Tikka Iqbal case had also declared the ordinances promulgated by Gen (Retd) Pervez Musharraf or by governors of the provinces during or before the November 3, 2007 emergency as valid laws, hence not requiring approval of the Parliament or the respective Provincial Assemblies in terms of Article 89 or 128 of the Constitution. However, the larger benchs judgment invalidated ordinances relating to the higher judiciary promulgated during the above-mentioned period including the Constitution (Amendment) Order, 2007, the Constitution (Second Amendment) Order, 2007, the Islamabad High Court (Establishment) Order 2007, the High Court Judges (Pensionary Benefits) Order, 2007 and the Supreme Court Judges (Pensionary Benefits) Order, 2007. The remaining ordinances were, however, referred to the Parliament, stating that the period of 120 days and 90 days mentioned respectively in the Article 89 and Article 128 of the Constitution, would be deemed to commence from Friday, July 31, and directed that these ordinances be placed before the Parliament or the respective Provincial Assemblies in accordance with law. The verdict held that all the judges deposed on November 3, 2007 should be deemed to have never ceased to be judges. The verdict also declared that the office of the Chief Justice of Pakistan never fell vacant on November 3, 2007 and therefore the appointment of Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar as Chief Justice of Pakistan was unconstitutional and invalid. It was, however, declared that the unconstitutional appointment of Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar should not affect the validity of any administrative or financial acts performed by him or of any oath made before him in the ordinary course of the affairs of the said office. The verdict also nullified all the appointments of judges to the Supreme and High Courts made in consultation with Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar. The judges thus elevated from lower courts to the higher courts should revert back to their respective courts, the judgment said. The Judges of the Supreme and High Courts appointed before November 3, 2007 but who took oath to their offices under the PCO in disobedience to the order of the 7-member bench passed on the same day were referred to the Supreme Judicial Council to be proceeded against under Article 209 of the Constitution. Secretary Law has been directed to take steps in the matter accordingly. However, any judgments delivered or orders made or any decrees passed by any Bench of the Supreme Court or of any of the High Courts which comprised of or which included the afore-described Judges whose appointments had been declared void are protected on the principle laid down in Malik Asad Alis Case, the judgment said. The judgment said that since the Constitution (Amendment) Order, 2007 and the Islamabad High Court (Establishment) Order 2007 have been declared to be un-constitutional and of no legal effect, therefore, the said Islamabad High Court shall cease to exist forthwith. The judgment said that all judicial matters pending before the Islamabad High Court before the passing of the judgment should revert/stand transferred to the courts, which had jurisdiction in the said matters before the promulgation of afore-mentioned Presidential Orders. The Judges of the said Court should cease to be Judges except those who were already judges of other courts, who should revert to their respective courts. The officers and employees of the said Court shall also cease to hold their respective appointments and shall become part of the Federal Government Surplus Pool for their further appointments. However, if any such officer or employee was an officer or an employee of some other court or department or office, they should revert to their respective courts, departments or offices. The verdict, however, said that establishment of a High Court or a Federal Court for the Federal Capital Territory might be a desirable act but regretted that such step was taken in an un-constitutional and a highly objectionable manner. We may, therefore, add that notwithstanding what has been declared and ordered above, the relevant and competent authorities may take steps to establish such a court in accordance with the Constitution, the judgment said. The judgment said that under Article 176 of the Constitution, the strength of the Supreme Court judges could be modified only through an act of the Parliament, therefore, the increase in the strength of the Judges through the Finance Act, 2008 which was passed only by National Assembly would be deemed to be valid only for financial purposes and not for the purposes of Article 176 of the Constitution. It is resultantly declared that the number of Judges of the Supreme Court for purposes of the said Article 176 shall continue to remain one plus sixteen. The judgment said that a new clause should be added in the Code of Conduct prescribed for the Judges of the Superior Courts in terms of Article 209(8) of the Constitution, commanding that no such Judge should, hereinafter, offer any support in whatever manner to any un-constitutional functionary who acquires power through unconstitutional methods and that any violation of the said clause would be deemed to be misconduct in terms of the said Article 209 of the Constitution. The judgment also declared that as Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar was not a valid and constitutional consultee, therefore the notification dated August 26, 2008 and September 15, 2008 extending the term of office of Justice Abdur Rashid Kalwar and Justice Zafar Sherwani as Additional Judges of the High Court of Sindh are declared to be un-constitutional and of no legal effect. The judgment also said that any declaration made herein should not in any manner affect the general elections held on February 18, 2008 and the government formed as a result thereof i.e. the President, the Prime Minister, the Parliament, the provincial governments and anything done by these institutions in the discharge of their functions. These acts are fully protected in terms of the age-old principle of Salus Populi Est Suprema Lex (The welfare of the people is the ultimate law), the judgment said. The court held that the present representative of people firmly believed in strong and independent judiciary and the democratic system which, it said, was evident from the restoration of the judges deposed on November 3, 2007, which, it said, implied that the present representatives of people denied the validity of the actions of General (Retd) Pervez Musharraf taken from November 3, 2007 to December 15, 2007 during which the Constitution remained suspended.