A full court reference in honour of the retiring Chief Justice of Pakistan, Mian Saqib Nisar, is being held in Court No. 1 of the Supreme Court. The ceremony in Islamabad is being attended by all Supreme Court judges — with the exception of Justice Mansoor Ali Shah — as well as Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) Anwar Mansoor, Vice Chairman of Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) Kamran Murtaza, retired senior judges as well as senior journalists, among others. Justice Nisar’s family is also in attendance.
PBC’s Vice Chairman Murtaza, while speaking at the ceremony, said that Justice Nisar had availed the authority granted to judiciary under Article 184(3) (Original jurisdiction of Supreme Court). Murtaza said that while he was one of the opponents of Article 184(3), he had no doubts about the intentions of Justice Nisar. However, Murtaza said, the “matter of Article 184(3)’s limitations must be resolved”.
Murtaza lauded Justice Nisar’s “extraordinary” service as chief justice and wondered if the Supreme Court, as an institution, would be able to continue performing in a similar manner. He stressed the need for the introduction of institutional reforms.
“Chief Justice Saqib Nisar is a very capable person,” Murtaza declared.
President of Supreme Court Bar Association Amanullah Kanrani also addressed the ceremony and said that recently “the judges’ tone becomes so harsh that it distracts the court and lawyers from their basic purpose”.
“Lawyers are not given a chance to present facts and arguments,” he said. He further said that the “huge amount of suo motu cases” leads to a delay in the proceedings of other petitions. Kanrani also suggested that the appellants be allowed to appeal against the verdicts passed in suo motu cases.
Justice Nisar was sworn in as the top judge on Dec 31, 2016. After he hangs up his robes today, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa will take over the reins of the Supreme Court of Pakistan tomorrow when he will be administered the oath by President Arif Alvi.
Earlier in the day, after adjourning a hearing of his last case, Justice Nisar said he was “thankful to everyone”.
“I spent more than 20 years in judiciary. I always tried to issue verdicts in accordance with the law and regulations,” he said.
Among Justice Nisar’s retirement plans are to open a “free legal clinic”. “I will offer free legal assistance to the oppressed, poor and helpless people at my free legal clinic,” he had disclosed, stressing that the country belongs to the disadvantaged populace as much as it does to those from the more privileged sections of society.
The outgoing chief justice passed several landmark judgements during his tenure as top judge — including the verdict in the Aasia Bibi case last year. He also headed the bench which decided that disqualification handed down under Article 62 (1)(f) of the Constitution would be for life.
The defining feature of his tenure, however, may be his judicial activism. Justice Nisar created headlines not just in the courtrooms, but by visits all over the country — to hospitals, filtration plants, lower court rooms and even prisons. Everywhere that the chief justice went, the cameras followed.
He also set up a fund for the Diamer-Bhasha Dam and initiated a campaign to raise awareness about population control.
At the full court reference that was held for his predecessor, former chief justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali, Justice Nisar in his address — which many believed was an insight into his plan of action as top judge — had declared that the judiciary will not tolerate corruption in any form.
“The act of corruption by state actors is a complete fraud on the exercise of their power may it be the executive or judicial limbs of the state,” Justice Nisar had observed and cautioned that it should be very clearly understood that besides cleaning ‘‘our own house of corruption, the judiciary would play its role in the eradication of corruption from other limbs of the government’’.
Justice Nisar’s judicial career
Justice Nisar has been a judge of the apex court since Feb 18, 2010. Before that he was a judge of the Lahore High Court (LHC).
Before being appointed as a judge, he was member of the Supreme Court Bar Association and Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA). He was elected as secretary general of the LHCBA in 1991.
Born on Jan 18, 1954, in Lahore, Justice Nisar did his matriculation from the Cathedral High School, Lahore, graduation from the Government College, Lahore, and bachelor of law from the University of Punjab in 1979-80.
He joined the legal profession as an advocate on May 2, 1980. He was enrolled as an advocate of the high court in 1982 and advocate of the Supreme Court in 1994.
He was elevated as the judge of the high court on May 22, 1998, and of the Supreme Court on Feb 18, 2010.
Justice Nisar specialised in civil, commercial, tax and constitutional laws and appeared in a large number of important constitutional cases both in the LHC and the Supreme Court.
He was appointed as the federal law secretary on March 29, 1997, when he became the first member of the bar to be appointed to the important position.
Justice Nisar represented Pakistan in an international conference held at the Wilton Park, United Kingdom, on the subject of “Pakistan and India at Fifty”.
He led a Pakistani delegation to a conference in Manila on the subject of “Asia Region Transitional Crimes”. He also attended conferences in Switzerland and Norway.
He had also been a part-time lecturer at the Punjab Law College and Pakistan College of Law, where he taught civil procedure code and the Constitution.