Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja


If a judge could be one ‘out of run-of-the-mill’ genre the outgoing Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja was. He was unconventional and non-traditional, both in his perspectives and judgements, and in very many ways. As CJP his stint was merely 23 days, but what he leaves behind would keep resonating for a long time in the high halls of justice where he saw many a ‘shade of fear’.

Sometimes the fear came in the form of coercion and pressure ‘from the powers that be’ to over-awe the independent judge, and sometimes it was the judge’s own self-conceived fear of ‘offending the powerful and the mighty’. And he knew all of it first hand, as being the one among the Supreme Court judges who resigned from office protesting dismissal of senior judiciary by the then president Pervez Musharraf.

He was also on the bench which declared the controversial National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) null and void. And once again he was witness to how this fear works (or doesn’t work) on a judge: the full court reference hosted in his honour on his retirement was boycotted by a powerful group of lawyers annoyed over suspension of practising licence of an advocate on charge of professional misconduct.

He was also the one who could order immediate implementation of constitutional dictate that the entire business of State should be conducted in the national language Urdu. History remembers judges not by the length of their tenure but by the judgements they deliver.

Justice Jawwad S Khawaja was a man of the book; to him if injustice so thickly permeates in the country today it is because of violation of the constitutional mandate by three concerned groups of stakeholders – judges, lawyers and executive.

He wants them to acknowledge that they failed to fulfil the promise made under Article 37 of the Constitution to “ensure inexpensive and expeditious justice” at the citizens doorsteps. Judges need to undertake self-accountability as to how and why they succumb to fear and pressure, often resulting in prolonged litigation, which is always at the cost of those who seek justice against wrongs done to them.

Justice Khawaja also feels there is the need to fix time-limit for investigation, with courts empowered to keep watch over it. And if suo motu initiation by the apex court in cases of citizens’ fundamental rights under Article 184(3) is warranted, then why not and why not more often.

Turning to lawyers the retired CJP was quite blunt, to him too many adjournments and strikes called by lawyers invariably cause inordinate delay in delivery of justice. And no less guilty for the delayed, and therefore denied, justice is the bureaucracy that almost always would seek additional time to submit complete challans, and quite often inadequately equipped with relevant documentation and forensic evidence.

One cannot differ with what the outgoing CJP says about the failed justice system in Pakistan, and hope that his message would sink where he wanted. The bitter truth is that inexpensive and speedy justice is not being provided to the people of Pakistan, and no wonder in the absence of readily available justice the crime is rife, the corrupt remain unpunished and people’s faith in the viability of state is eroded.

Source: Business Recorder