Address by Mr. Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa Chief Justice of Pakistan in the Full Court Reference held in his honour on December 20, 2019
Islamabad, December 20, 2019 (PPI-OT): Hon’ble brother Judges,
Attorney-General for Pakistan,
Vice-Chairman, Pakistan Bar Council,
President, Supreme Court Bar Association,
Members of the Bar,
Ladies and gentlemen.
Allah Almighty has said in the Holy Qur’an:
“And whatever of blessings and good things you have, it is from Allah.” (Surah Al-Nahal: verse No. 53)
My humble understanding of the Holy Qur’an is that at the end of the day all that Allah Almighty wants from us is submission and gratitude and on this important day of my life I want to express my humble and profound gratitude to the Almighty for all the blessings He has been showering upon me at all the stages of my life.
Nobody outside my immediate family knows that when I was born I had a small edge of a tooth in my mouth. It was an extremely rare phenomenon – to be born with a tooth – and the wise old folks in the family immediately declared that the child was blessed by the Providence with exceptional luck and good fortune and time proved them right. I was blessed with parents (Sardar Faiz Muhammad Khan Khosa and Atya Faiz) who were highly educated, totally committed to the principles of truth and upright conduct, very hardworking and humility, courtesy and compassion personified.
The siblings I was blessed with can make anybody proud. My brothers and sister, all present in this gathering today, have always been a great source of strength for me and my brothers, who reached the zenith in their own professions, are acknowledged as role models in their respective fields of lifelong public service. I am the luckiest man in this world to have a wife like Ayesha and daughters like Sehr and Samar and my sons-in-law, also present here today, who are academically and professionally accomplished, wise and caring and whose love, intellectual honesty and righteousness has always shown me the right path and has kept me steadfast.
I am also blessed with in-laws who have seen very high positions and glory in life but have remained humble and caring besides being an unflinching support and strength for me. I am extremely lucky to have friends who are selfless and who have stood by me through thick and thin. With the blessings of Allah Almighty I secured the highest positions in my academic pursuits and studied at the finest educational institutions in the world. In my career as a lawyer I was blessed with success and recognition and as a Judge of the High Court and of this Court I have always strived to live up to my oath of office and have tried to dispense justice according to law and without fear or favour, affection or ill-will.
The footprints of my judicial career spanning over a period of about 22 years may be found in almost every aspect of criminal and constitutional law and a student of law may find that throughout these years I have tried to consolidate legal knowledge on different aspects and have also made attempts to resolve conflicting opinions on diverse legal issues. It is not for me to lay any claim on correctness of my legal opinions but I only hope that posterity may judge me with kindness and may appreciate the sincerity of the efforts made.
Another blessing of Allah Almighty for which I shall always be grateful has been that as a Judge I was in the company of colleagues who are thorough gentlemen besides being men of great learning and integrity. I bow my head before Allah Almighty in eternal gratitude for providing me such a good environment for serving my countrymen in legal and judicial capacities and for so long.
My tenure as the Chief Justice of Pakistan lasted for a little over 11 months, or 337 days to be exact. If the weekends and gazetted holidays are excluded then I had about 235 working days in that capacity. Initially that period appeared to be too short to make any meaningful contribution but in hindsight it appears to be long enough for taking some critical steps and for initiating reforms in the justice sector. Some of such initiatives taken during these days are as follows:
The image of this Court as a dignified judicial forum sitting at the apex of judicial hierarchy was maintained, the principle of separation of powers was adhered to, judicial restraint was exercised and dignity and respect was ensured for all appearing before the Court as lawyers, litigants or officials.
An all-out effort was made to put our own house in order with an approach focusing mainly on improving the justice delivery system.
The principle of falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus was reintroduced in our legal system because in the absence of truthful testimonies justice may only be illusory.
The rampant practice of seeking and granting adjournments was effectively discouraged so as to minimise delays in disposition of cases.
Video-linkage was established between the Principal Seat of this Court at Islamabad and its Branch Registries at Quetta, Peshawar, Karachi and Lahore facilitating lawyers to argue their cases from their own stations rather than travelling to and staying at Islamabad for that purpose. Huge expenditure which the litigant public had to incur in this regard previously is now substantially curtailed. This step also makes it possible for the lawyers to attend to their other cases fixed at their local stations on the same day. The elderly lawyers whose mobility has become restricted on account of age are availing this facility with great satisfaction.
A state of the art Research Centre has been established in this Court which has access to the world renowned search engines in the legal field. As many as ten serving Civil Judges, trained in the United States of America, are now available at that Centre to assist the Hon’ble Judges with research on every conceivable aspect of law worldwide.
The website of this Court has been revamped and upgraded facilitating the lawyers and litigants in getting information about all judicial and administrative services being provided by the Court.
A mobile telephone application has been launched through which any person can access and receive information about any case pending before the Court besides being able to read and download any interim or final order passed by the Court in any case.
An e-Kiosk has been installed near the Bar Room at Islamabad for assisting the lawyers and litigants in finding out the status and progression of any case pending at the Principal Seat or at any Branch Registry of this Court.
Work is already in progress on introducing and utilizing Artificial Intelligence in the Court’s working for facilitating the Hon’ble Judges.
The Supreme Court Estacode has been compiled and launched consolidating in one book all the constitutional and legal provisions relevant to this Court and all the notifications, circulars, orders, rules and instructions governing the practices and procedures of the Court.
25 years’ backlog of Criminal Appeals pending before the Court has been wiped out.
During the last 235 working days as many as 15,555 cases have been decided by this Court despite many Larger Benches of the Court having remained busy with some important cases consuming a lot of time.
During this period two very learned and Hon’ble Judges were added to the Bench of this Court and such meritorious appointments were hailed by all and sundry.
A working paper containing some proposed amendments to the Supreme Court Rules, 1980 so as to regulate suo motu exercise of this Court’s jurisdiction under Article 184(3) of the Constitution and to provide for an Intra-Court Appeal in that respect has been presented before the Full Court and the same is under active consideration.
The courtrooms, rest houses and gardens of this Court have been refurbished and upgraded.
In the High Courts special Benches have been created for expeditiously deciding tax, revenue and banking cases so that the wheels of the economy move faster.
For expeditious holding and conclusion of trials before the trial courts Model Courts have been introduced with no extra expenditure and without change of any law or procedure. With a little fine-tuning of the system the same Judges and Magistrates have started holding and concluding trials within a matter of days rather than years. Such Model Courts include Model Criminal Trial Courts, Model Trial Magistrates Courts and Model Civil Appellate Courts. Within the last 212 working days the Model Courts have decided 1,16,407 cases and in dozens of Districts in the country zero pendency of many categories of cases has been achieved, including cases of murder and narcotics.
Special Courts for trying cases of Gender Based Violence have been established in every nook and corner of the country after imparting training to about 100 serving judicial officers with the assistance of the Asian Development Bank. No other country in the world has so many special courts for dealing with this menace and Pakistan has stolen the march in this field in the entire world.
The National Judicial (Policy Making) Committee comprising of the Chief Justices of all the Courts in the country has been transformed into an active body laying down policies for judicial reforms and actively supervising different initiates taken. It is this Committee which has launched the Expeditious Justice Initiative through which the Model Courts have been established throughout the country.
The Federal Judicial Academy has not only been turned into a Centre of Excellence imparting training to judicial officers, court staff, prosecutors, investigators and young lawyers but also into a vibrant body providing administrative support to the Model Courts besides constantly monitoring their progress on daily basis.
The Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan has been rejuvenated and besides performing multiple other functions it is providing vital support to the initiatives taken by the Police Reforms Committee chaired by the Chief Justice of Pakistan and comprising of all the Inspectors-General of Police in the country and some reputed retired police officers. A comprehensive report prepared by the Police Reforms Committee suggesting structural and operational reforms in the police has already been forwarded to the Federal and Provincial Governments and, if implemented, the same is likely to transform the functioning, effectiveness and image of the police throughout the country.
Establishment of the office of Superintendent of Police (Complaints) in every District of the country on the basis of a decision of the Police Reforms Committee has provided a system of internal accountability within the police department and aggrieved persons now have a free forum of redressal of their grievances against working of the police and they now don’t have to approach a court of law for that purpose. This one step has resulted in reduction of about 40% in filing of petitions in this regard before the District judiciary and a reduction of about 15% in filing of writ petitions in this respect before the High Courts throughout the country.
Creation of District Assessment Committees in every District of the country on the basis of another decision of the Police Reforms Committee for the purposes of analyzing the reasons of acquittal in criminal cases and imparting instructions in that regard to the investigating officers is already showing results and a noticeable increase in the rate of conviction in criminal cases is being reported.
All this, and much more, has been achieved by the judicial leadership of the country in merely 235 working days and the peculiarity of such achievements is that all this has been accomplished without any change of law or procedure and also without any extra expenditure. Allah Almighty be praised and I bow my head in gratitude for the divine support. I also owe a debt of gratitude to my Hon’ble colleagues on the Bench of this Court, the Hon’ble Chief Justices of all the High Courts, the hardworking lawyers, the untiring court staff, the supportive executive authorities and the police leadership for their fullest cooperation in every initiative taken and successfully executed. Their support in all such endeavours and ventures shall be cherished by me for the rest of my life.
It will be a remiss on my part if I do not specifically mention my Law Clerks and my personal staff without whose tireless and ungrudging support and cooperation nothing of the above could have been achieved. My special thanks go to Ayesha Khokhar, Mian Sarwar Muzaffar Shah, Maryam Mansur, Muhammad Awais Arshad and Assad Ullah Khan who have served with me as Law Clerks from time to time. My Secretary Muhammad Yasin Shah, my Private Secretary Arif Mehmood, my Qasid Ghulam Nabi and my gunman Muhammad Manazir have served me beyond the call of duty and I cannot thank them enough. They are all very noble souls and I pray from the core of my heart that Allah Almighty may bless them and their families.
All that I want to say in the end is that I always did what I thought was right and was worth doing. It did not matter to me as to what the reaction or consequences would or could be. My approach was what had been summed up so beautifully by the poet Fehmida Riaz in her poem ‘Faiz Kehte’ in the following words:
I believe that a Judge, besides being just and fair to all, should have a heart of a lion, nerves of steel, wisdom of a sage, expression of a man of letters and approach full of empathy and compassion. These were the ideals that I strived to follow but I do not know how successfully. I can, however, confidently say, and Allah Almighty be my witness for it, that I always tried to be true to the oath of my office. I gave my hundred percent to the job, tried to perform beyond the call of duty, never raised my voice, spoke mainly through my pen, never delayed a judgment unduly and after giving the best years of my life to this public service I lay down my robes today with a conscience which is clear as crystal. I, however, in all humility at my command, seek forgiveness from all those in whose cases my judgment might have gone wrong unwittingly and also from those whose feelings I might have hurt unintentionally. Allah Almighty is most forgiving and He likes those who forgive.
Thank you very much.
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