By Ansar Abbasi
ISLAMABAD: Deposed and detained chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry has said that the conditions and legality of the post Nov 3 PCO judges of the superior judiciary was entirely different from those who took a similar oath in the past.
Talking to The News here on Saturday, Justice Iftikhar said that what made the present lot of the PCO judges different from the previous ones was the fact that this time the judges took oath under the PCO despite a Nov 3 Supreme Court seven-member bench’s decision, which had not only suspended the PCO but had also restrained the judges of the Supreme Court and all the high courts from taking fresh oath under the PCO.
“This has happened for the first time in the history of Pakistan,” he said, adding that the Nov 3 decision of the seven-member SC bench would be crucial to revert to pre-Nov 3, 2007 position. “Never before Nov 3, such an order of suspending the PCO or restraining the judges from taking oath under the PCO was delivered by the superior judiciary in the country’s history.”
Secondly, Justice Iftikhar said that this had also happened for the first time in the history of Pakistan that neither the public, including the lawyers’ fraternity, nor such a large number of judges (almost 60) had accepted the removal of the judiciary.
He said that protests on the part of the public as well as the superior judiciary after Nov 3 had no parallel in the past. Justice Iftikhar said that none of the Nov 3 affected judges had accepted the so-called sacking, as they all still believed that they were the constitutional judges of their respective courts.
Justice Iftikhar though said that no one would object if any of those honourable judges who had refused to take oath under the PCO in 2000 and was still below the age of 65 maintained that the 17th Constitutional Amendment was a constitutional hitch to the re-instatement of those respected judges who had opted not to take oath under PCO in 2000.
He said that there was no constitutional cover available to the actions taken on and after Nov 3, which yet again makes it a unique case in the history of Pakistan. Justice Iftikhar, who along with his family including eight-year old Balaj is under house arrest since Nov 3, 2007, said that the judges could only be removed under Article 209 of the Constitution and the executive had no authority whatsoever to sack any judge of the superior judiciary.
When asked about his taking oath under PCO in 2000 but refusing the same in 2007 while some of his brother judges opted to repeat what they had done previously, he said, “There is a time in one’s life when one says that enough is enough.”
Referring to the political life of the Father of the Nation, he said that Quaid-i-Azam was once in the Congress but he left the party to join the Muslim League. At some stage, he said, one has to decide to fight.