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The bench and bar stand fully committed to constitutionalism, rule of law and democracy, and any attempt made from any quarter to destroy or damage these ideals and principles or to build inroads into them shall be resisted with the fullest might. Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa stated this while addressing the opening ceremony of New Judicial Year 2019 held simultaneously in all branch registries through video link. The ceremony took stock of performance of the past year with a view to formulate future policies to advance the cause of justice and protect the rights of people.

Attorney General for Pakistan Anwar Mansoor Khan, Vice Chairman Pakistan Bar Council Syed Amjad Shah and President Supreme Court Bar Association Amanullah Kanrani also made speeches on this occasion. The Chief Justice said that in recent times the leadership of the bar has repeatedly voiced its concerns over receding political space in governance of the state and such concerns must not be ignored. "As an important and independent organ of the state responsible for safeguarding the constitutional ethos of the country we feel that such loss of political space in governance of the state may not augur well for the future of the country as a constitutional democracy."

About the lopsided accountability, Justice Khosa cautioned, "We as a relevant organ of the state also feel that the growing perception that the process of accountability being pursued in the country at present is lopsided and is a part of political engineering is a dangerous perception and some remedial steps need to be taken urgently so that the process does not lose credibility."

He said that it must be appreciated by all concerned that a voice suppressed or an opinion curbed generates frustration, frustration gives rise to discontent and increasing discontent poses a serious threat to the democratic system itself. "Constitutionally guaranteed rights of citizens ought never to be compromised for the sake of short-term political or governance advantages." "Democracy requires a long-term approach and tolerance for dissent and without that the system plunges into authoritarianism and we have witnessed plenty of it in the past with disastrous consequences."

Justice Khosa said, "During the farewell reference held in honor of the outgoing CJP Saqib Nisar, I had urged the executive and the legislature to consider restructuring of the judicial system of the country by introducing a three-tier system, doing away with special courts and repealing or amending some unnecessary and problematic laws but unfortunately nothing has been done in those areas so far.

"Even my suggestion regarding holding of an inter-institutional dialogue for sorting out irritants within the organs and institutions of the state has not received any consideration and the serious issue of the missing persons also still haunts us all."

Justice Khosa made it clear that this court should never act (take suo motu) at the bidding or demand of any outsider because acting on that basis militates against independence of this court.

"Suo motu notice taken on a demand of somebody else may not be suo motu and would be a contradiction in terms. This court shall take suo motu notice of a matter only when it feels the necessity or utility for it and not when it is coaxed in that regard by outsiders."

He said the court is open to all and sundry and anybody interested in activating the judicial process of this court may take the trouble of filing a petition before the court which shall be heard and the purpose shall be served.

Regarding pending complaints/references, the Chief Justice said at present 9 complaints/references are pending before the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) including two presidential references (against Justice Qazi Faez and Justice KK Agha).

He maintained that 56 privately instituted complaints/information were pending before the SJC at the start of the last judicial year in September 2018 and during the same period 102 more complaints/information were filed before the Council. One hundred and forty-nine of such complaints/information were duly processed and disposed of by it during the last judicial year.

In three out of the four complaints/ information instituted before filing of the presidential references, different steps were already being taken in terms of the prescribed procedure, while in the 4th such complaint/information proceedings of the Council had already been stopped because of pendency of the same matter/issue before the Supreme Court on its judicial side.

The Chief Justice said that at present about 1.78 million cases are pending in the country at all levels. This marks a noticeable decrease in the number of pending cases as about 3.65 million fresh cases were instituted since the last judicial year. It means about 3.68 million cases were decided by about 3,100 judges and magistrates in the country in a period of one year.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2019

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