LAHORE: Mian Saqib Nisar, the outgoing chief justice, leaves behind a mixed legacy as his controversial tenure was a blend of high-profile verdicts and judicial activism, which drew criticism from various segments of the society.
A Supreme Court bench led by Justice Nisar acquitted blasphemy convict Aasia Bibi in a case for which she had served 10 years behind bars. Amidst threats made by religious groups, the bench overturned the death penalty awarded to her by a high court. The verdict triggered nationwide protests led by Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan, which brought the country to a halt. The protests, however, ended after the government and the protesters reached an agreement.
The chief justice also exercised his suo motu powers excessively. He took 40 suo motu notices during his tenure, including suo motu notices in the mega money laundering scandal and the murder and rape case of six-year-old Zainab Ansari which led to the formation of a joint investigation team to probe the fake accounts used for money laundering and a death sentence for Zainab’s rapist and murder Imran Ali, respectively.
However, the chief justice was not appreciated by all. His judicial activism ranged from spearheading a campaign for the collection of funds for building dams to visiting hospitals and neglected areas of the country, drawing criticism from various groups on overstepping his constitutionally-mandated role. The chief justice was also accused of pursuing an agenda against some politicians.
Despite everything, Justice Saqib Nisar, leaves behind 40,000 pending cases in the Supreme Court, having done little to reform the judicial institution from inside.
His successor, however, has decided to take a different course. Justice Asif Saeed Khosa on Thursday hinted at laying down the scope and parameters of exercise of the original jurisdiction of the Article 184(3). Although he has expressed resolve to ensure quick dispensation of justice, he clearly stated that there are “more than 1.9 million cases in pending in the courts and 3,000 judges cannot dispense so many cases.”
“It is also time to introduce some structural and systemic changes so as to minimise litigation, eliminate unnecessary delays and rationalise the workload. Time has also come when the judicial system as a whole needs to be redesigned or restructured and made simple and effective,” he added.