The preoccupation of the Supreme Court and the high courts with matters political, call it constitutional if you will, has its reasons but it is delaying inordinately the adjudication of private petitions and appeals. Poignancy is driven home when an appellant is waiting in a death cell and the remedy sought by a petitioner is overtaken by time. The cost and frustration caused by the delay is best illustrated by quoting one example in each category. First, the appeal of three young men of one family against death sentence was in the supreme court for years together while they waited on the death row. Second, a petition against an arbitrary order of Gen Musharraf in his dying days jeopardising the right of a citizen to vote is awaiting decision by the supreme court now for more than four years. This is how the petition has proceeded. It was made in September 2007 and was admitted for hearing by a bench headed by Justice Jawad S. Khawaja in February 2010 on the ground that the CEO’s order had ‘committed an invidious and impermissible discrimination’.

Since then the petition had come up for hearing 13 times but adjourned for one or the other reason — more common being the absence of the attorney – general or amici curiae. For quite some time now it has not figured even in the cause list. At one stage, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, presiding on the bench, made a very heartening observation that the petition would be decided in the next hearing. That was two years ago. Over this period of almost five years, the electoral lists, howsoever incomplete and inaccurate, are said to have been finalised by the election commission. The petitioner’s right to vote in the next general elections will remain in jeopardy till his petition is taken up by the court by taking time out of political wrangles. May I suggest that just one bench, and no more, should hear the constitutional/political cases of privileged politicians. The rest of the judges should attend to thousands of pending cases of ordinary mortals. Secondly, a bench of the supreme court should be permanently stationed at Karachi instead of making brief and uncertain visits from Islamabad.


Karachi, April 26.