Justice Rana Bhagwan Das – The Rule of Law is not what is in it but rather following it!

Report BY: Khalid Hashmani (McLean, Virginia, USA)
Washington DC, August 16, 2008: Justice Bhagwan Das addressed a large gathering of local Pakistani community today at a Rockville City Council Auditorium. The topic of his address was “Role of Independent Judiciary in the Democratic Development of Pakistan“. The event was held in conjunction with the 61st Pakistan Independence Day celebration and was organized by the Pakistan American Association (PAA

) of Greater Washington.
Justice is the former acting Chief Justice of Supreme Court of Pakistan (CJP). He remained the acting CJP during the 2007 judicial crisis in Rana Bhagwandas

 

Pakistan and thus became the first Hindu and the second non-Muslim to serve as chief of the highest court in Pakistan. He was born in 1942 in Naseerabad in Qambar-Shahdadkot district in Sindh province of Pakistan. He is a graduate of Sindh University and has a Masters degree in Islamic studies. He joined Pakistani judicial system in 1967. He became a judge of Sindh High Court in 1994 and became a justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan in 2000. 
 
Mr. Jamshed Uppal, Chairman of
PAA Board of Trustees welcomed the attendees and gave a brief introduction of PAA

. Other trustees include Irfan Malik, Parvez Uppal, Tahira Anwar Shah, and Jamshed Shah Ali Nawaz Memon. 
 
The Pakistan American Association of Greater Washington is unaffiliated with any government or political party, operates as a non-profit organization and aims to promote understanding and fellowship among Pakistani-Americans and community at large. It organizes trade and cultural shows and festivals to create awareness about Pakistani cultures. It also organizes seminars and invites prominent speakers to educate the Pakistani community on political, social and economic issues and raise awareness of their rights and responsibilities. Mr. Uppal introduced Justice Rana Bhagwan Das and called him an exceptional judge for his impartiality and fairness acknowledged internationally.The

 

PAA Executive Committee consists of Sabir Rahman (President), Anwar Goheer (Vice President), Mohammad Azam (Treasurer), and Jawaid Bashir (Secretary). Mr. Sabir Rahman (President) in his remarks said as there is much talk about faith-based initiates in the USA, one must recognize that Pakistan was the first such faith-based initiative. He said that Justice is the foundation of free society and added that power is not a scale of justice but it is for the protection of justice. 
 
Justice Bhagwan Das started his presentation by saying that it is not common for judges to speak in public gatherings. They normally hear other people, listen to their arguments, sometimes ask questions and then finally speak through their judgements. He said that sometimes it seems that democracy is cumbersome and slow system but time has shown that there is no better system as it encourages every one to contribute and helps ensure equitable sharing of wealth of a country.
 
Mr. Justice Bhagwan Das said that in our society, sometimes it would seem that “exploitation” and “governance” have become synonymous.
Pakistan has enormous capacity and energy to overcome all obstacles and become a respected and strong country in the world. What is needed is a system of strong democratic traditions and practices and a judicial system that gives equal justice to all.
 
When “legislative” and “executive” powers are in one person’s hand, it invariably leads to a serious trouble. It is also wrong to say that “judiciary” is subordinate to the “legislative” branch. The present constitution requires that all judicial appointments be done in consultation with judicial functionaries. This is a mandatory requirement. Unfortunately, the roles of constitution and judiciary have been damaged due to frequent military interventions and because such actiins were not forcefully opposed by people. This has allowed dictators to get away with their actions. Although all PCOs have had negative impact, the PCO of
November 3, 2007

was worst since the its key purpose was to directly attack judiciary. Justice Bhagwan Das said that all rights and liberties would remain only paper unless they were protected by courts.The “Rule of Law” is not what is in the law but rather it concerns with following the law itself. The “Rule of Law” is pre-requisite for democracy.
 
Answering a question that quoted a representative of a Pakistani minority in another event (also held in conjunction of the founding day of Pakistan) that religious minorities have not received equal treatment for high courts and Supreme Court of Pakistan, Justice Bhagwan Das said, it is not correct that supreme court has not given fair judgements on issues raided by religious minorities. He added that in some cases some lower courts and other law enforcement agencies might have shown lapses, the higher courts of

 

Pakistan

have treated all Pakistani citizens the same.Answering another question that Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry had sort of joined politics by addressing events and expressing opinions on political matters. Justice Bhagwan Das said that it was not the case. He added that Justice Chaudhry was only addressing Bar Associations at their invitations. He has neither joined a political group not is favoring any political party. 
 
A question was asked as to why Supreme Court had not opposed overthrow of Nawaz Sharif. Justice Bhagwan Das said that judiciary cannot operate in isolation from people. The people of

 

Pakistan

did not strongly oppose that overthrow, thus there was no alternative for the Supreme Court but to go along with the promise of the military government that fair and impartial elections would be held in three years. 
 
A question was asked if General Musharraf can be given impunity from the violation of constitution charges, Justice Bhagwan Das said that question was a hypothetical question and as a rule he does not reply hypothetical questions.In answer to a question about democracy within political parties, Justice Bhagwan Das said it is up to Pakistani Parliament to enact laws that would require democracy within political parties of

 

Pakistan

.A question was asked, “What can be done to stop the country breaking into parts?” Justice Bhagwan Das said

 

Pakistan is not going to disintegrate. It is a strong country, its people are vibrant, and in time they will reinforce a strong system that is democratic and gives justice to all.
 
On a question about “Law of Necessity” that has been used to condone military dictatorships in
Pakistan, Justice Bhagwan Das said that this law is no longer encouraged or carries any respect. He said he thinks it is not going to be used in future and hoped that there will not be any future occasions when such a argument will be made again.
 
 
On the question of proposal to formulate a judicial commission as part of the proposed constitutional amendments, Justice Bhagwan Das said that in his view, a judicial commission would have an opposite affect as it would curtail independence of judiciary. He added that he hoped that sanity will prevail and this provision will not be approved.

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