ISLAMABAD - Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Asif Saeed Khosa on Wednesday said that the judiciary as an institution deems the impression about ongoing accountability process being political engineering a dangerous trend.

Addressing a ceremony marking new Judicial Year at Supreme Court in Islamabad, Justice Khosa urged for the steps to dispel this impression. The Supreme Court, as a relevant organ of state, thinks steps need to be taken “urgently so that the [accountability] process does not lose credibility”, he said.

“Recovery of stolen wealth is a noble cause…. if in the process the constitutional and legal morality of the society and the recognised standards of fairness and impartiality are compromised then retrieval of the lost constitutional and legal morality may pose an even bigger challenge,” added Justice Khosa.

He said the judiciary is determined to play its role in accordance with the constitution and the law.

Suppression of dissent

The CJP also mentioned shrinking space for dissent in the country, an opt-repeated concern of bar associations, media and opposition parties.

“Such concerns cannot be ignored,” said the top judge, adding that “loss of political space may not augur well for the future of the country as a constitutional democracy”.

He said the reports of growing censorship are “disturbing” and such practices are a “serious threat to the democratic system itself”.

The CJP said, “Constitutionally guaranteed rights of citizens ought never to be compromised for the sake of short-term political or governance advantages.

“Suppression of any opinion creates lack of trust and an unrest emerges from this lack of trust which poses threat to democratic system.”

References against judges

Speaking about the proceedings against judges in the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC), Justice Khosa said it was the “most unpleasant job”. “Nonetheless, it is a constitutional duty they cannot refuse to perform,” he added.

“The Constitution empowers the president to direct the council to inquire into the conduct of a judge and the council cannot disregard such a constitutionally mandated direction,” said Justice Khosa in a clear reference to the cases of SC judge Qazi Faez Isa and Sindh High Court judge KK Agha.

“It, however, goes without saying that such a direction to inquire does not, and cannot, control the opinion to be formed by the Council after inquiring into the matter,” he said, emphasising that SJC will do its job without any fear, ill-intention and pressure. No one should expect anything from the Council but justice, he added.

Judicial activism

About suo motu powers of the apex court, he made it clear it would be used for issues of national importance only. The top judge said he knows it that a segment of the society was unhappy over the court’s ‘lack of interest’ in judicial activism. He said the same segment used to criticise judicial activism in the past.

The chief justice said any notice taken on someone’s demand or desire was not suo motu in fact. He said that instead of judicial activism, the present Supreme Court was promoting the “functional judicialism”.

“Decision has been made to put the house in order. We reckon that to refrain from taking suo motu notices is safer and less harmful,” he said.

Progress and judicial reforms

Speaking about the number of cases, the top judge said efforts were afoot to reduce the burden of pending cases.

“At the beginning of the last judicial year, the number of pending cases stood at 1.8 million which, according to the Law and Justice Commission, has now dropped to a little over 1.7 million,” he said.

The CJP said model courts were set up in 116 districts of the country for dispensation of instant and inexpensive justice, adding that the number of “military cases in Quetta and Karachi Registry of the Supreme Court has also reached zero”.

Justice Khosa said the military cases in SC’s Islamabad bench will also be disposed of in a few days. The chief justice said a research centre will be established at the apex court.

The chief justice said, under the Expeditious Justice Initiative, Model Family Courts and Model Rent Courts are being established in every district of the country.

He said under this initiative, Gender-based Violence Courts have also been established throughout the country and about one hundred judges of trial courts were being imparted training in the field with the assistance of the Asian Development Bank.

Justice Khosa said the SC also decided to introduce the artificial intelligence system and that active consultations were already afoot with different expert bodies in this regard. He said the apex court started the e-Court system to help early disposal of cases.