Editorial: A welcome move - Saturday, March 05, 2011

Source : http://www.dawn.com/2011/03/05/a-welcome-move-2.html

THE apology tendered by former chief justice of the Supreme Court, Abdul Hameed Dogar, for ignoring a restraining order issued by a bench led by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry on Nov 3, 2007 should help close that unsavoury chapter in the country’s legal history. Mr Dogar of course became chief justice when Gen Musharraf sacked the judiciary and then put in office only those who were willing to work within the framework of the unconstitutional emergency measures. Ever since the reinstatement of Chief Justice Chaudhry in March 2009, the judiciary has been split between the ‘PCO judges’ and the ‘non-PCO judges’, with the judges who resisted Gen Musharraf’s emergency driving out of the judiciary anyone who collaborated directly with Gen Musharraf or even those selected later by the former president’s hand-picked chief justice, Mr Dogar. The justices who sided with Gen Musharraf were wrong, and perhaps deserved to lose their offices. Less clear-cut, though, was the moral and legal fault of those who were appointed by Mr Dogar after the emergency had been lifted — while those appointments were made by an ‘unconstitutional’ chief justice, the justices thus selected took an oath under the constitution, not Gen Musharraf’s PCO.

Be that as it may, the Dogar-era judges were eventually removed by their ‘non-PCO’ peers. That decision of the SC spawned some resentment and unhappiness among the affected judges and their supporters in the bar — but that was arguably of a manageable level. However, contempt of court proceedings against Mr Dogar and several other judges for defying the restraining order issued by a bench led by Chief Justice Chaudhry on Nov 3, 2007 elevated the tensions to a higher, undesirable level. In essence, the argument of those in the legal community opposed to the SC’s move was that losing their jobs was enough punishment for Mr Dogar and the other ‘PCO judges’. But going the extra mile — instituting contempt of court proceedings — created unseemly perceptions that the superior judiciary may be entering into the terrain of personal score-settling. A legal community divided along those lines is not in the best interests of the public, the state, the bench or the bar.

But now, Mr Dogar’s apology and the resignation tendered by Justice Zahid Hussain, a ‘non-functional’ judge of the SC, point the way ahead for the other handful of justices against whom similar contempt charges are pending. Perhaps if apologies and resignations are handed in, the SC may allow the matter to rest there. Egos and personal vendettas should not be allowed to roil the judicial landscape unnecessarily.

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