Chaudhry’s verdict on sugar wasn’t sweet

December 13, 2013

New York Sugar
Sugar

AAMIR SAEED

Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry stepped down on Wednesday after completing his eight and half year intermittent career, leaving behind a trail of supporters and detractors alike. Supporters of the chief justice eulogise him for his refusal to bow before the then dictator General Pervez Musharraf while his detractors point out that his reinstatement would not have been possible if the legal community, the civil society and political leaders had not initiated a movement.

A long march led by PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif in 2009 also played a crucial role in his reinstatement for the second time.

The former Chief Justice Chaudhry continues to receive praise for his crusade against corruption and suo motu action in different high profile cases like National Reconciliation Ordinance, NICL, Bank of Punjab, Rental Power Projects, LNG, LPG, Nato containers scam, Rekodiq, thereby generating money for the treasury.

But, his critics point out that he misused the suo motu power conferred on the apex court in the constitution by making it a trial court. The detractors also point to the way he initially handled the Arsalan Iftikhar case and the public largely remained dissatisfied even after he recused himself from the bench at the outcome where the case was dismissed as involving two private parties.

To address grievances of the general public, Iftikhar Chaudhry also established a human rights cell in the Supreme Court. Here too, he has his supporters and detractors with the former referring to his suo motu notice of the Karachi law and order and missing persons case to provide relief to victims where government of the day failed to do something concrete.

There is, however, a consensus amongst economists that it does not come under purview of a court to take action with respect to pricing of sugar, CNG, electricity, or petroleum products. The court decisions on sugar pricing could not be implemented while some other decisions also violated the executive’s authority to tax or set prices of different commodities.

The previous PPP-led coalition government accused Chaudhry of being biased and partial against its leadership. The following decisions are cited as examples by the party with a view to proving partiality of Chaudhry:

(i) instructing the federal government to write a letter to Swiss authorities to reopen graft cases against former President Asif Ali Zardari;

(ii) removal of Yousuf Raza Gilani from the prime minister’s office on contempt charges;

(iii) failure to give a verdict on the presidential reference on Z A Bhutto hanging in a murder case;

(iv) removal of senior officials appointed by the PPP-led coalition government including Tauqir Sadiq, NAB chairman Fasih Bukhari and suspension of Salman Farouqi

In contrast, leadership of the PPP accused the former chief justice of having a bias in favour of the PML-N leadership and cited the Asghar Khan case as proof of its contention.

However, numerous judgements by the apex court have also gone against the PML-N government after it took over reins of the government in June this year. This includes suspension of the PIA chairman appointed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, terminating SECP chairman, tunnelling Margalla hills to connect the federal capital with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and summoning the defence minister in the case of missing persons.

In the Anita Turab case, Iftikhar Chaudhry, however, ruled that no public functionary would be removed, posted, transferred or appointed in an unfair manner and urged the bureaucrats not to follow illegal orders of their supervisors, be they senior bureaucrats or politicians – a verdict that was supported by a wide spectrum of Pakistani society.

Ironically, the former chief justice himself is accused of playing favoritism in judicial appointments being chair of the Judicial Commission of Pakistan.

The critics opine the former chief justice also failed to introduce much-needed reforms in the lower judiciary to expedite disposal of the cases, though a National Judicial Policy Making Committee was constituted by Iftikhar Chaudhry for the purpose.

The judicial activism also emboldened a section of the legal fraternity to resort to illegal activities like some of them even slapped judges of the lower judiciary and locked them up in court rooms. But, the former chief justice never initiated any action against the culprits to bring them to justice.

Interestingly, Iftikhar Chaudhry’s last working day was also not without controversy as a few journalists from different television channels boycotted his farewell dinner by accusing the court of allowing coverage of full court reference to only one private television channel.

Courtesy Business Recorder

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