An absorbing debate was witnessed between General Musharraf’s counsel and Justice Khilji Arif; reportedly in reply to the lawyer’s argument that the President could take extra-constitutional steps, Justice Arif asked who gave that right? The lawyer replied that the right was granted by the courts themselves and not only that he urged the bench to include cases from 1956 onwards. But the lawyer then stated that the transgressors of the constitution are in the same boat, apparently referring to those close to Musharraf who helped him stage the 1999 coup.

The bench rounded the hearing off with the observation that it would see whether General Musharraf could be charged under article 6 after examining the November 3 emergency, he had imposed. The bottom line was that it was time to discourage authoritarian measures as well as those who perpetrate them. In the previous week, the caretaker government backed off from initiating proceedings against the General for treason over grounds that it did not have the mandate, also pegging it with the uphill task of holding the general elections. The quandary of the constitution regarding what is to be done under the circumstances is apparent especially now that a caretaker government is in the equation. What needs to be done is that the canons of impartiality are kept supreme. General Musharraf is an ordinary man in the eyes of the law and so is every other citizen. Treating the privileged and powerful ones as superior and the weak as inferior would mean a double-standard. A denouement that would force away the criticism that the judiciary has been getting bogged down in political wrangling would further bestow on the apex court the values of neutrality. Musharraf’s lawyers made a reference to the then judiciary that validated the October 1999 takeover, when he told the judges that that ‘right’ was granted to it by the judiciary. These arguments add up to invoking the principles of legality – done many times before -- that however might still impact the future trajectory of the nail-biter. The new perspective would come when the names of General’s abettors would be called out. While the counsel stated that they must be summoned, Chaudhry Shujaat believes it would open up a can of worms, something that the Supreme Court seems determined to do. At this point, the impression being conveyed is that it is not an open and shut case as some would deem.

Obviously there might be a cataclysmic side to the dramatic events witnessed of late, the case in its entirety is about dispensation of justice. It puts greater responsibility on the judiciary to follow the trail in a manner that does not leave any trace of anything except blind justice on its character.