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CJ Khosa’s Legacy — Drawing A Red Line For Executive Overreach

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Justice Asif Saeed Khosa has retired today after an 11-month term. During his tenure, the judge has been in the limelight for some of his significant decisions that made headlines. In his eleven months, he has dealt with cases pertaining to the army chief and has played a major role in bringing to justice former dictator Pervez Musharraf who was convicted and sentence to death in a high treason case for imposition of emergency in 2007. In his full court reference today, incoming chief justice Gulzar Ahmed said that Asif Khosa had left an unforgettable mark on the judiciary.

Here is a look at what Justice Khosa will be remembered for.

Suspension of COAS’s extension notification and subsequent verdict seeking legislation on the matter

The most daring of Justice Khosa’s judgement was the suspension of notification extending the tenure of Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa, a week after the Prime Minister’s Office confirmed his extension.

Justice Khosa subsequently gave an extension of six months to the army chief, while making the federal government submit an undertaking that the parliament would legislate on the matter of extension within six months.

The move to have the parliament legislate on the extension issue was unprecedented, as this was the first time in the history of the country that the matter of an army chief’s extension was being legislated upon by civilians.

Rebuking Prime Minister Imran Khan for his anti-judiciary remarks

In November, Justice Khosa rebuked Prime Minister Imran Khan for his criticism against the judiciary following the Lahore High Court decision to allow Nawaz Sharif to go abroad. PM Imran Khan had said that the judges should not discriminate between weak and powerful segments of the society.

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The Lahore High Court had a few days earlier allowed former prime minister Nawaz Sharif to travel abroad for medical treatment, whilst ordering the federal government to remove his name from the Exit Control List without any condition of furnishing an indemnity bond, as proposed by the government.

The judge had strongly rebuked the prime minister in an address days later, wherein he said this was the same judiciary which had punished a former prime minister and declared another disqualified.

Playing an important role in bringing Musharraf case to conclusion

Justice Khosa also played an important role in the conclusion of the high treason against former dictator General (r) Musharraf. He had set aside a special court order in 2016 that had delayed the trial for two years.

Musharraf’s trial was also facing delays due to his absence from the country. When Justice Khosa became the chief justice, he took up the matter and in April, he presided over a three-member bench which directed the special court to move ahead with the trial as the accused had failed to show up and had lost the right to an audience.

His efforts bore fruit and the special court convicted the former dictator of high treason three days back, a move that experts have said would draw a red line for undemocratic forces.

Ensuring swift dispensation of justice

While addressing a full court reference in honour of former chief justice Saqib Nisar, Justice Khosa gave out his plan as the incoming top judge of the apex court. He detailed his plans for quick dispensation of justice and stated that just like Justice Nisar wanted to build dams, he wanted to build a dam against delays in judicial determination of cases.

In this regard, Justice Khosa established model courts that allowed the quick resolution of criminal cases. In Justice Khosa’s full court reference today, incoming Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed said that the establishment of model courts had delivered miraculous results.

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Declaring false testimonies perjury

Justice Khosa had also stated during Justice Nisar’s full court reference that he would act against fake witnesses and false testimonies. The judge lived up to his plan and in March 2019, he issued a verdict that declared presenting falsehoods before trial courts in criminal cases as perjury.

He had said in the verdict that Pakistan’s judicial system had suffered a lot as a result of deviation from the truth and it was about time that such a colossal wrong be rectified.

Minimise the use of suo motu

The former chief justice had also stated at the start of his term that he would use suo motu notices moderately. Justice Khosa remained true to his word, with him taking suo motu notices at a much lesser rate than his predecessor.

However, towards the end of his tenure, especially following his decision regarding the army chief extension, observers said that the chief justice had resorted to the judicial activism that he had said he would not engage in. But there were those who defended Justice Khosa’s decision about COAS extension, arguing that it had been taken to solve a long-pressing issue of military intervention in politics, a wrong that had to be righted.

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Naya Daur