Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry’s statement that the Supreme Court was duty bound to provide speedy justice to all citizens is sure to become misused as a rallying cry of anti-democratic elements who continue to promote the use of the courts as a political weapon. Before this happens, let us remind our fellow citizens that there are two parts to ‘speedy justice’, and one cannot be sacrificed for the other.
The Chief Justices statement is important to consider in a historical context. President Zardari was imprisoned for almost 12 years under a judicial system that was used as a political weapon. Depsite being left to languish in these conditions, he was not convicted. This is obviously a miscarriage of justice, to let a man lie in prison without carrying forward the trials that will allow him to clear his name or, on the other hand, be proven guilty by a fair and impartial process. This is why it is important to have speedy trials.
But ‘speedy’ trials do not mean ‘rushed’ or ‘premature’ or certainly not ‘summary.’ Much of the world is plagued with security forces (we cannot call them justice, can we?) that commit acts of speedy killings, tortures, and imprisonments of individuals who never have a chance to prove their innocence. Likewise, the courts never have a chance to prove their guilt. These men and women receive summary judgments that find them guilty or innocent almost on a whim (but more likely at the bequest of some powerful person above them). Certainly one can call these speedy, but where is the justice?
The phrase ‘speedy justice’ is made of two words that create a certain balance, much like the scales of justice themselves. If the process is allowed to drag on with no reason, it cannot be called justice. But likewise, if there is a rash decision made without all the facts, and without allowing the proper amount of time for the process to play through, there also can be no claim to justice.
The best course of action is to follow the advice of the leaders of the lawyer’s movement and stop trying to politicize the courts. The process will seem like it is too slow for those who wish only to see a political witchhunt, and it will seem like it is too fast for the guilty. But perhaps this is how we know it is the correct path for a democracy.