Pak Affairs

No space for dictator as people votes for constitutionalism: Justice Iftikhar

QUETTA: The deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry has said that in elections of February 8, 2008 people in Pakistan have voted for a constitutional dispensation in which there is no scope for a dictator or violator of the Constitution. He was addressing lawyers’ convention, after his arrival, in Quetta on Monday night.

Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry said that only parliament had the right to amend the constitution and one man can not defy it. Breaching the constitution is an act of high treason, he added. He said, “The people want a system wherein the Constitution remains supreme and the administration of justice is independent and impartial.”

He praised lawyers for taking a stand. “I admire the unparallel and unprecedented unity and solidarity demonstrated by the legal fraternity in the last one year or so. You had a great cause to fight for.” He also thanked civil society, media, political parties and people who supported the movement for supremacy of the constitution. The deposed Chief Justice said that the movement had crossed the borders and rallies in cities all over the world were organized in support of the judiciary. He said that he had confidence in the people of Pakistan and they will not stand by wrong.

He also praised judges of the High courts and Supreme Court who followed order of the apex court dated November 3, 2007, though they bore sufferings and they were put under arrest along with their siblings. The Justice Iftikhar said that they sacrificed their careers for the sake of independence judiciary and supremacy of the constitution.

He said this movement is for a great cause. Justice Chaudhary said, “The struggle is for a grand cause. The cause is to “Preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of Pakistan”. The cause is to enforce the Constitution and establish the independence of the judiciary. The cause is to ensure the supremacy of law. The cause is to make justice easily accessible and affordable. The cause is to provide justice to all. The cause is to ensure that the benefits of the law and fruits of administration of justice, reach out to those, who are in need of it. To those, who are aggrieved or deprived of their right or suppressed. To those, who are weak or vulnerable. To those, who are poor and down-trodden. You are lucky and should feel proud to be part of the present movement. I feel proud too. It is an honor to stand by high moral and legal principles. The day is not far when a truly independent and impartial judiciary will be established. It will serve the people. It will dispense justice. It will give relief and remedies to those who have unjustly suffered or are oppressed or deprived of their rights.” He said if you will study modern history you see that successful nations are following their constitution, which is their basic document.

He said, “let us resolve to follow our constitution.” Justice Iftikhar said “the Constitution is the supreme law and it should be followed in letter and spirit. It means that we have to adhere to the scheme of “separation of powers” as prescribed in the Constitution. The Constitution of Pakistan provides for triachotomy of powers. It establishes the three organs of the State, namely, legislature, executive and judiciary. It gives specifies functions to each organ. It also imposed checks and limitations on such organs. The checks are to ensure that one organ may not intervene or interfere in the domain of the other. Thus, the Parliament is a key pillar of the State. It makes laws and policies for good and efficient administration. It allocates funds for development and working of Government system. It is responsible for the accountability of the governmental machinery. The Parliament is given the power to make law or change law or repeal law. It can also amend the Constitution. The amendment of the Constitution has to be in accordance with the prescribed procedure. And while following this procedure and having the requisite majority in each house, the parliament is the supreme body to amend the Constitution, however, obligates the Parliament not to change the basic structure of the Constitution, namely, Federal scheme, the parliamentary system, independence of judiciary and Islamic principles, contained therein.”

He said “The executive is important in its sphere. It has to enforce the law. It has to execute orders but the law is what is made by the Parliament and the orders interpret the law.” He said the superior judiciary, namely, Supreme Court and High Courts are obligated to enforce the fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens. The Supreme Court is mandated to ensure that the system of checks and balances is fully followed, Justice Chaudhry said.

He said every organ has to perform its functions by remaining within its domain and not to interfere in the domain of other. He said “The Supreme Court can play this role only if it is fully independent and truly impartial. That is why the Constitution lays tremendous stress on an independent and impartial judiciary. And also stresses terms and conditions of service and the grounds and procedure for removal of judges.”

He said any such detailed safeguards protect the judiciary form any onslaught by the executive or any rouge authority. He said the judges who refused to take oath under the PCO, not only followed the Constitution in letter and spirit but also obeyed, as it was binding on them, the restraining order passed by the Supreme Court on 3 November 2007, which declared the proclamation of Emergency and PCO unconstitutional. He said to call such judges as “deposed” of removed by the media is to justify the 3 November 2007 illegal action and sanctify an authority which was party to the case.

Justice Iftikhar said that he is abiding by the oath he took as chief justice and therefore opposed any step which was against the constitution. He said that they always took decisions in the interest of the people in accordance with the principles of justice. He said that he took suo motto actions and thousands complaints were still lying in the human rights cell.

He said, “There is one point though that would like to emphasize, that in the future also, our conduct will be no different. We will follow the constitution. We will enforce the rule of law. We will strengthen the democratic institutions to improve governance and resolve the problems of the masses. The reason why the Supreme Court took up important cases like steel mill, price spiral of food items and allotment of and farm houses, allotment of plots to Secretaries, the cases of missing persons, etc was to ensure that national wealth is not floundered, fundamental rights are enforced and the country is governed under the Constitution and the law. Those were actions in aid of good governance and accountability of the executive.”

“The Constitution and the law are for the benefit of citizens. The law is not just for the benefit of the privileged classes. It is also for the benefit and protection of weaker segments of society. It is therefore crucial that restraints in the way of functioning of judicial organ are removed and independent judiciary becomes fully functional. The independent judiciary must continue to perform its role under the Constitution and the law. This is for the benefit of the country. This is for national stability, peace and economic, social and political development. Incarceration of judges has ended. External restraints on our movement have been lifted. Technically we are back in office and are on duty. But we still observe self-restraint. This is warranted by judicial propriety.”, he said.

The sacked Chief justice concluded his address in these words, “ It is a mark of respect to the newly elected parliament. It is out of gratitude to the people of Pakistan, who stood by the principle of independent judiciary and kept their confidence in us. In conclusion, may I say that our salvation lies in adherence to the Constitution, supremacy of law and maintenance of rule of law?”-SANA

About the author

Rubab Saleem

Rubab Saleem is Editor of Pakistan Times

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