Justice Should Be Institutional, Not Personal

From today’s Daily Times editorial:

It is indeed a tragedy that our nation has a way of forgetting its real heroes. The lawyers, being part of the same nation, are no different. Thus it was not surprising to see that a majority of the legal fraternity are unaware of the resignation of former Civil Judge Saeed Khurshid, a stalwart of the lawyers’ movement. It highlights how those lawyers who have a different opinion from that of the superior judiciary are being pushed to the backburner. Mr Khurshid had resigned in August 2009 to protest against “personification, rather than institutionalisation, of justice”.

Saeed Khurshid was the first from the ranks of the lower judiciary to resign in 2007 when General Pervez Musharraf sacked Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. His decision to resign back then was hailed as “an act of bravery” but ironically this time his resignation was accepted unceremoniously by the same superior judiciary for whom he had resigned in 2007. Saeed Khurshid had taken a principled stance back in 2007 and again in 2009, he resigned on principle. His resignation should be an eye-opener for the legal fraternity as it is a troubling reflection of the increasing concern being voiced by a number of people behind the lawyers’ movement. Their arguments are more or less the same: that the justice system should be based on institutionalisation and not become person-specific.

The aim of the lawyers’ movement was not just the restoration of the chief justice and superior judiciary but to bring about revolutionary changes in the justice system. Justice Javed Iqbal recently said: “Chief Justice Iftikhar is a symbol of bravery, boldness and rule of law and is acclaimed for supremacy of the Constitution.” With due respect to Justice Iqbal, there is no doubt that it was quite admirable that the chief justice stood up against a military dictator’s whims but the credit for the success of the lawyers’ movement equally belongs to the lawyers who rallied behind their chief valiantly, civil society that stood side by side with the legal fraternity, and the people of Pakistan.

Justice Iqbal said that the judiciary would preserve the democratic system. For that to happen, it would be more appropriate to strike a proper balance between the executive, judiciary and legislature.

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