Will Chief Justice Bandial Save or Hurt his Legacy?


Every Chief Justice is concerned about their legacy but it appears that Justice Umar Atta Bandial’s tenure will be remembered for his refusal to listen to his fellow judges, and the broader legal fraternity, and restore the image of the superior judiciary.


As an editorial in Dawn noted, “the chorus of voices demanding improvements in the administration of the Supreme Court has only grown stronger with time, yet the honourable chief justice insists on keeping with tradition, much to the frustration of other stakeholders. In doing so, he has become an unmoving obstacle in the way of those who believe a reformation of the country’s top court is well overdue.”


As the Editorial noted, a one-page note was authored by Justice Yahya Afridi and appended to a recent court order calling for the formation of a full-court bench to hear the petitions challenging the court martial of civilians. Justice Afridi “believes doing so will restore harmony within the court and its integrity and prestige in the eyes of the people. Justice Afridi has very perceptively warned that the current composition of the bench will invite political controversy, which will weaken the force of whatever decision it takes. He may not be wrong.”


For some months now the court and the chief justice have both been under sustained attack over their discretionary power to form benches. “It is understandable that the chief justice does not wish to relinquish his privileges over some hasty piece of legislation moved by a controversial government, but he must realise that his institution is bleeding its power and prestige the longer he refuses to relent.”


If, the Chief Justice accedes to his peers’ wishes he “still has the opportunity to fortify both his institution and his legacy. He must consider constituting a full-court bench; and, if he does so, the other judges should avoid creating any new controversy and lend him their full and unconditional support.”


Author: Muhammad Butt