Editorial - Renewed tensions - Friday, March 11, 2011

Source : http://thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=35610&Cat=8

An eight-member parliamentary committee has suggested the government move a review petition against the Supreme Court judgement delivered a few days ago, overruling the committee’s rejection of the Judicial Commission’s recommendations on extensions for six judges of the higher courts. The threat of a stand-off between institutions, which we had hoped would be settled following the apex court ruling last year and the passage of the 19th Amendment, arises once more. The issue is a crucial one, given that perhaps more than anything else, we need an independent judiciary able to mete out justice freely and without any restraint. Behind the many angry words we hear, this is the crux of the matter. The periodic challenges to an independent judiciary are inflicting a great deal of damage. It is clear that people seek this ardently, as do most members of the legal profession. The celebration of ‘Iftikhar Day’ by lawyers, to mark the anniversary of the restoration of the judiciary headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry is just one indication of this. Many of us also wonder where we would stand if the judiciary had not been willing to assert itself and take up issues such as corruption. The situation we face could have been even worse than is currently the case, and this is a frightening thought in more ways than one.

We badly need our judiciary to be able to work independently and without pressure. The role of the courts in introducing reform in countries such as India is well-established. That process seems to be beginning at home. It should not be disrupted. What we definitely do not need at this point is any kind of power game between institutions. There are enough problems already. Since the 18th Amendment was passed by parliament last year, there have been warnings of a clash between institutions. In the present case we have already heard a variety of views. What is vital is that the matter be sorted out before any lasting damage is inflicted, the role of the judiciary as laid down in the Constitution accepted, and the principle of a separation of the institutions fully accepted. Unless this happens, we will keep running into roadblocks, and this can only hurt a democracy that has still to establish itself in the country. It will be able to do so only if every institution is given the space it needs to grow and develop.

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