Outgoing Chief Justice of Pakistan Asif Saeed Khosa on Friday said a malicious campaign has been initiated against the judiciary but the truth shall finally prevail.
Khosa made these remarks in a gathering before officially addressing a full-court reference organised at the Supreme Court on the eve of his retirement, just a day after a special court released the detailed verdict in the high treason case against former dictator General retired Pervez Musharraf.
The verdict by the special court, which handed Musharraf the death penalty for his actions of imposing emergency in the country on November 3, 2007, has been severely criticised by the government and the military’s media wing as an ‘attack on the institution of army’.
Addressing the gathering later, the top judge said, “I always did what I thought was right and was worth doing.”
“I gave my hundred per cent to the job, tried to perform beyond the call of duty, never raised my voice, spoke mainly through my pen, never delayed a judgment unduly and after giving the best years of my life to this public service, I lay down my robes today with a conscience which is clear as crystal.”
Justice Khosa, who is set to retire today at midnight, will end a career in the judiciary spanning almost two decades. Justice Gulzar Ahmed will take oath tomorrow as the 27th chief justice of Pakistan.
The outgoing chief justice said that he had always “strived to live up to my oath of office and have tried to dispense justice according to law and without fear or favour, affection or ill-will”.
“It is not for me to lay any claim on correctness of my legal opinions but I only hope that posterity may judge me with kindness and may appreciate the sincerity of the efforts made,” he added.
He went on to list the measures he took in order to bring reforms in the judiciary which include the launch of e-courts, online Supreme Court database, revamping of the SC website as well as launch of a mobile application. He pointed out that a backlog of pending criminal appeals was wiped out and the practice of asking for adjournments was “effectively discouraged”.
“An all out effort was made to put our own house in order with an approach focusing mainly on improving the justice delivery system,” he said, adding that during his tenure as the country’s top judge “the image of [the Supreme] court as a dignified judicial forum sitting at the apex of judicial hierarchy was maintained, the principle of separation of powers was adhered to, judicial restraint was exercised and dignity and respect was ensured for all appearing before the Court as lawyers, litigants or officials.”
Justice Khosa, who has often referred to literary works in his judgements, concluded his speech with a poem by progressive poet Fahmida Riaz titled Faiz Kehtey.
In his address on the occasion, Justice Ahmed paid a rich tribute to his predecessor and termed the outgoing chief justice as a judge “par excellence” and “a person of extraordinary intellect, unmatched integrity and outstanding erudition”.
Though Justice Ahmed did not lay out a roadmap for his tenure as the top judge, he noted: “Rule of law, protection of Constitution and independence of the judiciary, are the foremost tasks with which this court is constantly confronted with.
“This court has, in the past, addressed these challenges and shall continue to address these challenges with all due dignity and profoundness,” he said. He also insisted that the “state should build and provide for civic and civil infrastructure”. Justice Ahmed is currently hearing multiple cases pertaining to illegal encroachments and lack of infrastructure in urban cities.
He said the state must adopt a “humanistic approach,” emphasising that “corruption and illegalities, in all the departments of the State, need to be seriously addressed and eliminated”.
The reference was attended by all Supreme Court judges with the exception of Justice Qazi Faez Isa who is on holiday. The attendees also included vice chairman of the Pakistan Bar Council, president of the Supreme Court Bar, additional attorney general and others.
Earlier, speaking on behalf of the attorney general at the reference, Deputy Attorney General Amir Rehman said [Khosa] has been labelled a “poetic judge” because of his observations and judgments.
“As a judge he decided 55,000 criminal cases as well as 10,000 criminal cases. In addition, he also made his stance clear on submitting false testimonies and evidence to courts,” he said.
The deputy attorney general also criticised the special court’s verdict in the high treason case against former dictator Pervez Musharraf. “The special court did not follow Khosa’s principles in deciding cases. Their conduct runs contrary to the conduct of the court’s top judges,” he said.
The 26th CJP of Pakistan
Sworn in as the 26th chief justice of Pakistan on January 18, 2019, following the retirement of Justice Saqib Nisar, Khosa presided over proceedings in his last case as the chief justice of Pakistan earlier this morning. “Today I am hearing my final case,” he remarked in court. “I wish everyone the best.”
Justice Khosa will perhaps be best remembered for adding lyrical flair in his observations and judgments — such as those made in landmark Panama papers verdict that de-seated Nawaz Sharif as the prime minister in 2017.
As CJP, Khosa is known for pushing for judicial reforms and calling for the police and the judiciary to work together to ensure justice for the people.
During the full court reference honouring Mian Saqib Nisar, Khosa said that the Supreme Court did not need to “jump in” by taking suo motu notice during the premature stages of cases.
He is also critical of flaws in the criminal justice system, stating that false testimonies are a key flaw in the system. “Since we decided to take up this challenge, […] till now some 15 eyewitnesses of the murder cases are being tried for committing perjury in the courts of law in different parts of Pakistan.”
In addition, he is a strong advocate for model courts, stating that they had managed to restore the public’s confidence in the judiciary.