There may be different points of view about the CJP and whether he was acting in an appropriate manner prior to November 3. But there are no two views about the fact that prior to that date he was indeed the CJP and had served the cause of justice in Pakistan as a lawyer and as a judge for many years
On June 9, 1954, Senator Joseph McCarthy was conducting hearings related to his claim that there were a number of communists and communist sympathisers in the US government and armed forces. As part of his vendetta, McCarthy made a gratuitous assault upon a young lawyer named Fred Fisher, not because Fisher represented a target for him, but because Fisher worked for a law firm whose senior counsel represented the Army in the Congressional hearings.
The senior lawyer made a number of attempts to dissuade McCarthy, but to no avail. Ultimately, when it became clear that McCarthy intended to take steps which would destroy the young lawyer’s career, the senior lawyer was finally goaded into a fitting response.
“Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator; you’ve done enough.” And when McCarthy indicated that he would not rest, came the final response: “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”
I am reminded of these words and of that incident by the headline in today’s newspaper which informs me that a learned justice of the Honourable Lahore High Court has asked Mr Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, the Chief Justice of Pakistan, and Mr Justice Rana Bhagwandas, the senior puisne judge of the Honourable Supreme Court of Pakistan, to appear in person — repeat, in person — to come and explain why they refuse to vacate their official residences.
There are a number of points to note in this regard. The first point is the most obvious: the two learned judges have not vacated their official residences as yet because they are being kept under house arrest in those official residences by a large contingent of armed police officers. This is a known fact and the court may, if it pleases, take judicial notice of it.
The second point is tactical. Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that the writ in question (that is, the one in which this order seeking the personal attendance of two judges has been passed) is not the product of an individual grievance but has instead been “encouraged” by some well-wishers of the current establishment. If so, my question is this: Are you out of your mind?
This government has with great difficulty and with considerable cost to its self-image managed to incarcerate its chief justice. It doesn’t need telling that this move has not gone down well with lawyers and that the legal community has had to be thrashed and beaten into a sullen silence. If the two learned gentlemen whose presence has been requested in person were to actually appear in person, the hearing would also be attended by every single disgruntled lawyer in person,in which case the riotous consequences would also be predictable.
And what if, a lawyer for the chief justice appears and says that he cannot appear in person because he is under house arrest? Or worse still, what if a lawyer for the chief justice’s lawyer appears and states at the rostrum that neither the chief justice, nor the senior puisne judge, nor their counsel can appear because they are all under house arrest? What then? What will the learned and honourable judge of the Lahore High Court say then? Will he proceed with the case?
If so, the proceedings will be a farce. On the other hand, will the honourable judge of the Lahore High Court have the galls (to use a popular malapropism) to direct the police to produce the two vagabond judges and their lawyer? If so, will the police listen? And if not, why expose yourself in such a cruel manner?
The final point then is moral. Whether one likes it or not, there are different points of view about the Chief Justice of Pakistan and whether he was acting in an appropriate manner prior to November 3, 2007. But there are no two views about the fact that prior to that date he was indeed the CJP and had served the cause of justice in Pakistan as a lawyer and as a judge for many years.
The same applies with equal force to Mr Justice Rana Bhagwandas. It may be that because of the shifting tides of political fortune, these two gentlemen are no longer able to continue as judges till the end of their constitutional tenure but that does not take away from the fact that they certainly were judges of the Supreme Court of this country. And that even as former judges, they are entitled to be treated with a minimum of respect and dignity.
And so I ask: Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?