Justice or Activist?

A little noticed story from the weekend gives more evidence that the Chief Justice is acting outside his constitutional role of interpreting the law and is using the Bench as a platform for political activism.

The story, reported in The News, tells that:

…during the hearing of a case lodged against two Rental Power Projects (RPPs) on Friday, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry observed that the emergency meeting summoned by President Asif Ali Zardari to discuss the electricity crisis was indicative of institutional and administrative breakdown in the country.

The chief justice maintained that the electricity crisis plaguing the country was so severe that it had forced the president to convene an emergency meeting, and this was an indication of the government’s failure.

It is one thing to for the Court to question whether contracts were awarded in a lawful and transparent way. It is quite another for the Chief Justice to declare the government a failure. Openly expressing an anti-government opinion in the Court raises serious concerns that the Chief Justice has crossed the line from being an unbiased judge who applies the law per the Constitution to a political activist who uses his authority to promote an agenda.

It also raises serious concerns about recent decisions by the Court which some believe go beyond interpreting the law to targeting the government. The Supreme Court’s obsession with forcing the Prime Minister to write a letter, despite the clear language of Article 248 of the constitution along with the fact that the detailed verdict in the PM’s contempt case, for example, is filled with contradictions and inconsistencies has caused many to worry that the Court is doing more than acting as a neutral judge. Then there is the never-ending saga of ‘memogate’ in which the Supreme Court has given yet another four week extension despite the fact that nothing new has been discovered for months, keeping anti-government conspiracies alive rather than settling the issue once and for all when it was supposed to be settled months ago.

When the Chief Justice took his oath, he swore in the name of Allah that he “will not allow my personal interest to influence my official conduct or my official decisions” and “that, in all circumstances, I will do right to all manner of people, according to law, without fear or favor, affection or ill-will”. After giving political statements during hearings, the Chief Justice should consider whether he has acted according to his sworn oath, or whether he has crossed the line between justice and activist.

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