By Asad Jamal
June 2012 will go down in the legal and political history of Pakistan as a watershed month as the Supreme Court (SC) of Pakistan intruded not only the domain of other state institutions and violated the code of conduct for the superior judiciary but also disregarded some of its own recent and not-so recent pronouncements.
It was the June 19 decision to disqualify Yousuf Raza Gilani as a member of the National Assembly (NA) and as Prime Minister of Pakistan that really stole the limelight. The decision, delivered through a short order which states that the reasons for disqualification will be recorded later, has been criticised on various grounds. The critics of the verdict variously call it legally infirm, an encroachment upon the domain of parliament and other constitutional offices, lacking impartiality and being potentially detrimental to democracy in Pakistan.
On the lack of impartiality first: while the decisions of a court may be debated and questioned, the judges should never lose the appearance of impartiality. In a 2006 speech during the Golden Jubilee celebrations of the SC, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa had said “… independence of judiciary is not an end in itself; it is only a means to the end, and the end for sure is impartiality of judiciary.” Unfortunately, the order for Gilani’s disqualification is a glaring example of the court’s transgression into the jurisdiction of other constitutional offices, if not outright bias.