Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry – a name signifying justice and a strong judicial system. In 2005, Justice Iftikhar, in his message on becoming the Chief Justice of Pakistan said:
“The term justice is not to be interpreted in a narrow and pedantic sense. It encompasses political justice, economic justice and social justice. No individual or a nation can attain optimum level or their potentialities in case of denial of either political, economic or social justice. True and unalloyed justice, transcends the boundaries of cast, creed, and color. It is universal and for the entire mankind. This is the theme of all revealed religions and Allah the Almighty loves those who act equitably.”
Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry became the 20th Chief Justice of Pakistan in June 2005, after Justice Nazim Hussain Siddiqi. He was appointed as Chief Justice by Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf on May 7, 2005. He was suspended by President General Musharraf on March 9, 2007, but was reinstated by order of the Supreme Court on July 20, 2007. On November 3, 2007, Chief of the Army Staff General Musharraf suspended the constitution and declared a state of emergency. Justice Iftikhar reacted promptly, convening a seven-member bench which issued at interim order against this action. He also ordered the armed forces of Pakistan not to obey any illegal orders.
Subsequently, 111th brigade of the Pakistan army entered the supreme court building and removed Chaudhry and several other judges from the Supreme Court. After the imposition of emergency, Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar was sworn in as the new Chief Justice of Pakistan; whereas, Justice Iftikhar Chaudry was put under house arrest.
Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, was born on 12th December, 1948 in Faisalabad and completed his earlier education in Balochistan; did his LL.B from Hyderabad; started practice as an Advocate in 1974; enrolled as an Advocate of High Court in 1976 and of Supreme Court in 1985; practiced in all fields of law i.e. Constitutional, Criminal, Tax, Revenue, etc. In the Bar he served twice as ‘Vice Chairman of the Balochistan Bar Council’, was also elected as ‘President of Balochistan Bar Association’ and ‘President of the High Court Bar Association’. In 1989, he was appointed as ‘Advocate General of Balochistan’ and elevated as ‘Judge of the High Court of Balochistan’ in 1990, being a Judge of the High Court, also served as Banking Judge, Judge of the Special Courts for Speedy Trial and Customs Appellate Court as well as Company Judge; appointed as ‘Chairman of the Balochistan Local Council Election Authority’ and conducted twice Local Bodies Elections in the Province of Balochistan showing his rich experience in dealing with executive administration. He has a special interest for humanitarian and educational causes. He twice served as ‘Chairman of the Pakistan Red Crescent Society – Balochistan’.
Presently he is ‘Honorary Patron in Chief of Helpers Association’ and ‘Chairman of Education Society of Sibi Law College’. His personal interest in disseminating legal education among far-flung areas paved way for establishment of Law College in Sibi.
He was appointed as ‘Chief Justice of High Court of Balochistan’ in 1999. It was during his tenure as Chief Justice of Balochistan that he took personal keen interest in establishing long awaited Circuit Bench of High Court of Balochistan at Sibi. He was elevated as ‘Judge of Supreme Court’ on February 4, 2000. Besides functioning as Judge of the Supreme Court, he served as Chairman, Enrolment Committee of Pakistan Bar Council.
He was appointed as Chief Justice of Pakistan and took oath of the office on 30th June, 2005. He attended 22nd Biennial Congress on the Law of the World, held in Beijing & Shanghai, China in September, 2005. He participated in the International Conference and Showcase on Judicial Reforms held in Philippines in November, 2005. He also visited United Kingdom in February, 2006 in connection with the UK-Pakistan Judicial Protocol on Children.
Famous for taking suo moto actions, especially against the Government, he became the first Chief Justice of Supreme Court of Pakistan to be suspended on politically motivated charges of misuse of power which were erroneous and lacked validity. Nevertheless, his suspension and subsequent reinstatement gave a new life to judiciary.
As anticipated, the repercussions of the ouster of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry turned out to be far-reaching and ugly. The President should have deliberated further if he thought the charges against the judge were serious enough to warrant a confrontation. Probably, the government feared that judgments in the constitutional cases relating to the dual office of the president and his re-election by the current assemblies inevitably, which were due before the court might go against it if Justice Chaudhry was the Chief Justice.
On his suspension, the lawyer community took to the streets and the common man added his ‘hurrah’ to it. Consequently, he became the ‘most popular person’ of Pakistan.
On March 09, 2007, Chaudhry was suspended by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. Musharraf also filed a “reference” (i.e., legal case) against Chaudhry for alleged misconduct, such as an allegation that Chaudhry demanded an ostentatious Mercedes-Benz for his official car.
The suspension of Chaudhry was the first time in the 50-year history of the Pakistani Supreme Court that a Chief Justice was suspended. The court under Chief Justice Chaudhry had made rulings against governmental corruption, including the Pakistan Steel Mills case.
In 2007, the Supreme court ruled against the government, saying that the selling of Pakistan Steel Mills to a group including Arif Habib, former client and friend of PM Shaukat Aziz, was done in “indecent haste”.
To put it simple, Justice Chaudhry’s suspension was done in ‘indecent haste’ too, and with intentions that were not very pure. A critical view of the possible reasons is as follows:
• He worked hard while pursuing his efforts to clear the backlog of cases and burnt the midnight oil in literal sense while taking up the additional responsibility of the human rights cases under his suo moto jurisdiction. A separate human rights cell was set up at the Supreme Court that received thousands of complaints from poor victims across the country.
• Lawyers had a grudge that Mr Chaudhry was wasting his precious time while hearing cases which actually came under the jurisdiction of civil courts.
• The entire police hierarchy, bureaucracy, politicians from the ruling as well as opposition parties, feudal lords and several incumbent rulers directly or indirectly came in the line of fire when Mr Chaudhry either gave decisions against them or passed stern directions for them to comply with.
• He admonished the former inspector general of Punjab police, Maj (r) Ziaul Hasan, when the Punjab police was accused of not implementing 90 percent of the SC directives. Hasan might have felt that he was humiliated in an open court so he retaliated and broke the court decorum by exchanging words with the judge. At the time, the judge told journalists not to report that part of the proceedings.
• In the Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) case, Mr Chaudhry headed a larger bench and ruled that the Cabinet Committee on Privatisation (CCOP) grossly violated the law in the PSM sell-off. Certainly, the government would not have liked this judgement because none other than the prime minister was heading the CCOP.
• While pursuing the case of missing citizens, who were allegedly picked up by the intelligence agencies, the judge fixed responsibility on the government and observed that it was the duty of the state to protect people’s lives and ensure their safety. This case might have annoyed the government.
• In the public interest cases, he also went off the government line and issued directions for the authorities to benefit the common man.
After the event, there was unrest in the country with regard to the validity of the allegations against Chaudhry, as well as doubt as to whether Musharraf actually had the power to suspend the Chief Justice under the circumstances.
On May 5, 2007, Chaudhry traveled from Islamabad to Lahore to address the Lahore High Court Bar Association. Demonstrations of support along the route slowed his motorcade to the point that it took him 25 hours to reach the dinner the Association was holding in his honor. This journey usually takes 4-5 hours on average. Demonstrators chanted not only slogans supporting Chaudrhy, but also openly called for Musharraf to step down(Go Musharraf Go).In his speech he criticized dictatorship and emphasized on the important of the rule of law.
On July 20, 2007, Chaudhry was reinstated to his position as Chief Justice in a ruling by the thirteen-member Pakistani Supreme Court which also quashed the misconduct reference filed against him by Musharraf. The ruling combined 25 constitutional petitions filed by Chaudhry and other interested parties, but referred most of the issues raised by the 24 petitions not filed by Chaudhry himself to lower courts for extended adjudication. All thirteen of the sitting justices agreed that Musharraf’s action had been illegal, and ten of the thirteen ordered Chaudhry was to be reinstated and that he “shall be deemed to be holding the said office and shall always be deemed to have been so holding the same.”
On 3rd November, 2007 Gen Musharraf declared Emergency in the country. After the imposition of emergency and suspension of constitution, Justice Chaudhry constituted an 8 member bench of Supreme Court judges duly headed by him, and immediately quashed the provisional constitution order, declaration of emergency and the suspension of the constitution, and ordered all civil and military personnel to ignore the order. He also ordered all the chief justices of high courts and judges of Supreme Court and high court not to take oath under the PCO. Soon after, the supreme court was stormed by the 111th brigade of the Pakistan Army and chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudary along with seven other judges of the of the Pakistan supreme court were removed from office and kept under house arrest. Musharraf replaced Justice Iftikhar Chaudry with Abdul Hameed Dogar as the de facto chief justice of Pakistan and also administered the oath of office to three other judges of the supreme court under the PCO, Justice Dogar later took a fresh oath on the constitution after it was restored and the PCO withdrawn.
He is under strict house arrest and no one has met him officially since he was arrested on 3 November, 2007. However he has continued to denounce Musharraf’s declaration of emergency and vowed to push for a return to the rule of law.
On November 6 Iftikhar Chaudhry spoke by phone to a group of 500 lawyers. In his statement he said that the constitution had been “ripped to shreds” and that the people should “rise up and restore it”. He added that although he is currently under guard, he will soon “join you in your struggle”. Supporters and political parties have since rallied around him once again.
On November 7 his guards were arrested and taken away after they refused to handover the security to the guards loyal to Musharraf.
On November 15 Geo News reported that Chaudhry had ordered the Islamabad Inspector General of Police to take action against his and his family’s house arrest and their possible removal to Quetta. According to the channel, Chaudhry held the interior secretary, the commissioner, the deputy commissioner and the assistant commissioner responsible for his house arrest. He said he was still the chief justice of Pakistan and the official residence was his by right.
On November 18th, in a letter to prominent English-language newspaper The News he wrote: “I will fight till the last drop of my blood to save the Constitution of Pakistan and so will resist any move to ‘deport’ me to some far-flung area with the intention to separate me from the lawyers and the Pakistani citizens”.
AWARDS & HONORS:
– Harvard Law School (HLS) Medal of Freedom
In the wake of the imposition of emergency rule in Pakistan, on November 14, 2007, the Harvard Law School Association decided to award its highest honour, the Medal of Freedom to Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, following the military crackdown the previous week. He becomes the first Pakistani to be presented with such honour.
Harvard Law School Medal of Freedom is given to selected personalities for their contributions to freedom, justice, and equality. Former South African President Nelson Mandela is one of the previous recipients of this award.
– Lawyer of the Year Award
The National Law Journal picked Mr. Chaudhry as the lawyer of the year for 2007, the only non-american in the history of the Journal. The official line of the US government may be muted critique of the dictator but the human heart decries for the innocent and pallbearer of justice. Mr. Chaudhry, how weak he may be in a country run by dictators half its life, stands tall by his denunciation of mockery of justice and deviation from rule of the law.
On December 15, 2007 ’emergency’ was lifted and Musharraf’s crafted lawyers reinstated an amended Constitution which has been cut out to fit for the dictator. Musharraf made it clear that reanactment of the Constitution does not mean reinstatements of Justices including Mr. Chaudhry. To Mr. Chaudhry and rest of the world this step also remains unconstitutional; a duly elected Parliament can only alter the manuscript of the constitution with a two-third majority. The act of ’emergency’ has done nothing but purged judiciary of dissenting justices and installment of Musharraf friendly Supreme Court. The dejure Chief Justice is correct that the Constitution of Pakistan is in shreds and has been mutilated with despotism being the order of the day or days to come.