Some court decisions are perennial in nature, whether they be remembered for their enduring wisdom such as United States v Nixon, wherein the US Supreme Court held that the US President cannot use executive privilege to withhold evidence from criminal trial or for being odious, such as Dred v Scott, where the same US Supreme Court denied African Americans the right to citizenship. It seems as if, the recently delivered Panama judgment  by our Supreme Court would too end up being on the wrong side of history, and in the not too distant future, once the dust settles down, it would be talked about my legal academics and practitioners as being dreadful. This  would of course not be without reason.

Of course, when we talk about the judgment, it is the majority view that comes off as the judgment of the Supreme Court, and not the minority view, for otherwise there was a dissent by the minority in Dred v Scott and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto v State as well, this did not however protect these judgments from the worst of legal criticism.

The majority ruled that a ''Joint Investigation Team'' be established to investigate the Prime Minister on allegations of corruption, but the majority view does not specify any law by virtue of which such a ''JIT'' can be established by the Supreme Court; a JIT is made under section 19 of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997, to investigate offences of terrorism, and a plain reading of the judgment makes it limpid that the Court does not suggest that the allegations against the Prime Minister are of terrorism. So if the ''JIT'' is not made by the judicial powers granted under section 19 of the ATA 1997, what other law's support did the Supreme Court obtain? Needless to say, if it has been done without any law to support it, then the decision is not only necessarily arbitrary but, with assistance from the words of Lord Simonds, a naked usurpation of the legislative function under the thin disguise of adjudication.

This is especially of significance, because multiple times the majority observes that the Prime Minister could not provide evidence to defend himself, and also that the Prime Minister can be summoned and examined by the Supreme Court. This raises a few questions; first if the Prime Minister can be summoned and examined, why delegate the function of recording that evidence to the JIT? Why did the bench then never summoned and examined the Prime Minister? And if such a JIT was required to record the evidence, why was such a JIT not made earlier in team, before the Supreme Court not only assumed jurisdiction but also put evidence produced by the respondents on record? Why was such valuable time of the court given to the evaluation of this evidence, especially with regard to the Qatari letter, when the Supreme Could not decide on the petition, admittedly, in light of the evidence brought on record?

Since, this evidence was taken on record and full arguments in relation to it heard, would this not prejudice the investigation by the JIT? The respondents at numerous times were improving their case, that is to say, they were improving the story put before the court. Now that the cat is out of the bag, is it not that before the investigating team, the Prime Minister would be able to narrate a story in answer to the questions that have already been asked of him before? This is akin to asking a student to re-sit an exam, wherein the examiner decided that he could not decide on his marks for one reason or another, despite the fact that he would now know the questions he would be asked.

The majority opinion also did not wholly deal with the case of Ishaq Dar, except for a few passing remarks in their decision, when this was an indispensable part of the judgment, while on the other hand, the minority dealt with this part of the case minutely.

Then, what about the conduct of the public authorities, the majority was quite explicit in its censure of the Federal Investigation Agency, the National Accountability Bureau and the Federal Board of Revenue? The judgment, however, did not only fail to run into combat with the ''lethargic and unwilling'' conduct, but in fact accorded the investigation to the nominees of the same public authorities. Inexplicable.

Other then the substance of it, the judgment also needs to be criticized for being extraordinarily long, without incentive. The recent trend the world over has been to write shorter judgments as they are indisputably expected to further the interests of transparency. In fact, very recently the UK Court of Appeal judges were told to stop writing unnecessarily long judgments. The Panama judgment, full of purple prose, had an outlining of the facts of the case and the arguments put forward by the parties in the notes of all the judges, when only one version of it could have been stated, followed by the legal arguments and decisions of all the judges.

When the judges, even before delivering the judgment, praised their judgment as legally meticulous, and said that it would be remembered for decades, they may have been a bit too humble. The judgement would be remembered for centuries, for being one of the worst in Pakistan's history, one that further eroded the already blighted trust and confidence of the members of the public in the judicial institutions.

Unfortunately, for the reasons foregoing, the question posed in the heading has to be answered in the affirmative.