In Tough Year, Supreme Court Tested By Entangling It In Constitutional Issues: CJP Bandial

Chief justice says tough situations outside and inside the courts impacted the apex court's performance

In Tough Year, Supreme Court Tested By Entangling It In Constitutional Issues: CJP Bandial

Outgoing Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial Monday remarked that the Supreme Court was put to the test this year when things were changed after adjudication on constitutional cases. He said that a time came when, in the midst of the fray, the court became a victim. 

The result of the constitutional case was a setback to the performance of this court," he said while addressing a ceremony in Islamabad to welcome the new judicial year 2023-2024. 

The courtroom was packed to capacity to hear Chief Justice Bandial's speech. He used the opportunity to praise his successor, deeming Chief Justice-designate Qazi Faez Isa as, "my brother is admirable, and I respect him". 

At the outset of his speech, Chief Justice Bandial said this was the last time he was addressing the ceremony as chief justice in view of his impending retirement later this week. It is believed that Bandial may not be afforded the honour of a full-court reference for his send-off, unlike his predecessors.

Judicial performance

Giving an overview of the performance of the top court over the past year, he said that the Supreme Court had disposed of a record 23,000 cases. This was far above the previous record of disposing of 18,000 cases in a single judicial year.

"We wanted to bring the number of pending cases to under 50,000," he said, adding that cumulatively, the number of pending cases fell by 2,000.

CJP Bandial said several constitutional cases were put before the Supreme Court in February 2023 which tested the court. 

He maintained that this court had worked tirelessly, even through the summer vacations, with five to seven judges available at all times.

Referring to the infamous incident where he exclaimed: "Good to See You" to Imran Khan in his courtroom, CJP Bandial reiterated that his innocent remarks were treated as sarcasm. 

"When I said 'good to see', it was misreported. I say it to everyone," CJP Bandial clarified. 
On the 4-3 and 3-2 controversy, to which he had recently referred to in a judgement, CJP Bandial claimed that none of the judges disagreed on holding general elections within 90 days after the dissolution of the assembly as per the Constitution.  

With his speech increasingly taking a tone of being a farewell speech, CJP Bandial appeared to lay out a wishlist for his successor to follow up on.

Regarding suo moto notices, the chief justice said only one notice was taken in nine months. The outgoing chief justice hoped that his successor, Justice Qazi Faez Isa, would create a better mechanism for suo moto notices.  
CJP Bandiual said that every institution, including the judiciary, will be stable when there is political stability in the country. 

The chief justice also highlighted the issue of the dam funds, a legacy he had inherited from his seniors, and said that Rs18.6 billion are placed with government securities and regulated by the top court. However, he expressed defeat in utilising the funds for its stated purpose, noting that it cannot be implemented until concrete steps are taken.

CJP Bandial also sought to address growing criticism over the court's and judges' expenses, stating that the court had surrendered around 13 percent of its budget to the national exchequer in an austerity campaign. 

Before concluding, the chief justice appreciated the participation of women in judicial work, noting that their inclusion had empowered the court.

The writer is an Islamabad based journalist working with The Friday Times. He tweets @SabihUlHussnain