PKONWEB Report (ISLAMABAD)– Pakistan’s next Chief Justice — Asif Saeed Khosa is seen as one of the top jurists on criminal law. During his career, spanning over a period of more than nineteen and a half years so far, he has decided about 55,000 cases including several high-profile ones such as the Panama Papers.
The biggest contribution of Justice Khosa in his career is that he cleared backlog of criminal cases. He decided over 10,000 cases of criminal nature since 2014. At present, a few hundred criminal appeals are pending.
Justice Khosa is known for adding lyrical flair in his observations and judgments — most recently in the landmark Panama Papers verdict that deseated Nawaz Sharif as the prime minister in 2017.
His dissenting note in the split 2:3 verdict — Khosa was among the two who held Nawaz should be disqualified — on April 20, 2017 began with a quote from the popular 1969 novel ‘The Godfather’ by Mario Puzo novel: “Behind every great fortune there is a crime.” The literary reference became a major talking point as opposition parties, in particular the PTI, latched onto it to drive home the allegations of corruption while PML-N spoke out against the choice of analogy.
Justice Khosa was the one who highlighted discrepancies in the replies submitted by the Sharif family during the hearing. Likewise, his verdict in Anwar Saifullah case is also famous.
Nawaz was subsequently disqualified under Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution in July the same year.
Justice Khosa’s view on how to deal matters related to corruption stand out in his Panama Papers case. The senior lawyers believe that there is need to debate on his approach to deal white-collar crime cases. In his 192-page judgment in Panamagate case, he says that corruption at high places is not a new phenomenon but the methods of corruption and concealing the proceeds of corruption have seen a dramatic change in recent times.
The 64-year-old judge believes that the standard of proof in relation to corruption and corrupt practices is ‘balance of probabilities’ (allowing inferences from circumstantial evidences) and not ‘beyond reasonable doubt’.
This distinction by him sets two different benchmarks for white collar crimes (commercial) and federal crimes such as murder, rape, etc.
In contempt cases, Justice Khosa has not been lenient. He authored the verdict of sentencing Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Senator Nehal Hashmi for one month, even though Hashmi had tendered unconditional apology in that case.
Justice Khosa also issued verdicts against two high court judges. Recently, Justice Khosa, being a member of Supreme Judicial Council, authored opinion about the removal of Islamabad High Court judge Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui.
He also reversed Special Court’s verdict to implead former chief justice Abdul Hameed Dogar, former prime minister Shaukat Aziz, then law minister Zahid Hamid in treason case, wherein the federal government only lodged complaint against former military ruler Pervez Musharraf. The judge had asked the special court to conclude treason case expeditiously.
In his landmark ruling in Salman Taseer murder case, he restored terrorism charge against murderer Mumtaz Qadri and upheld his death sentence. Likewise, Justice Khosa also highlighted a number of discrepancies in the Aasia Bibi blasphemy case. And on the basis of those discrepancies, Aasia got acquitted.
He is the judge who authored a ruling that no second FIR [first information report] can be registered in criminal cases and has also proposed appropriate amendments to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) law specially regarding handling bail applications of the accused. He suggested such requests be handled by accountability courts rather than the high courts or the top court.
There is no concept of adjournment in Justice Khosa’s court. It has been witnessed that after hearing every case, Justice Khosa dictates the orders in the courtroom and announces them without reserving the verdicts.
Last year in January, Justice Khosa stated that the judiciary with a total strength of 4,000 judges could not clear its docket with a backlog of 1.9 million cases– a view upheld by many of his contemporaries.
“There are 1.9 million pending cases in the entire country with only 4,000 judges,” Justice Khosa observed while heading a three-judge Supreme Court bench hearing an appeal against the Lahore High Court rejection of a murder case.
“Even if the entire judiciary consisting of all judges of the Supreme Court, all high courts and subordinate judiciary work day and night for 36 hours a day with 4,000 judges, it cannot clear the cases,” the judge said.
“And when we ask the government to increase the number of judges so that justice can be delivered promptly, they reply to us they are short of funds,” Justice Khosa observed.
ome experts expect that the new supreme court justice will pursue the matter and may even succeed in pushing the government to increase the budget for hiring of more judges.
The incoming Chief Justice also concurs with the outgoing top judge that disputes of the general public (including commercial and contracts) could be resolved in a timely and cost efficient manner through recourse to Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) methodologies–a practice followed in many countries.
According to Saif ul Malook, who defended Aasia Bibi, judge like Justice Khosa are born after centuries. “Had Justice Khosa not been on the bench, the result might have been different in Aasia Bibi case.”
Continuation and consolidation of the rule of law can be further expected during Justice Khosa’s one year tenure as the next Chief Justice of Pakistan.
(Report based on articles in The News, Dawn, Express Tribune)