Profile: Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa - Daily Qudrat Global

Profile: Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa

Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa has replaced Chief Justice (retd) Mian Saqib Nisar to become the 26th Chief Justice of Pakistan.

Born on December 21, 1954, in Dera Ghazi Khan, Punjab, Justice Khosa obtained his early education in Multan and then Lahore. During his early years, he secured the National Talent Scholarship and ranked in first position for his FA and BA. Later, he completed his masters in English Language and Literature, before leaving for the University of Cambridge in 1977. On his return to Pakistan, the young lawyer enrolled as an advocate of the Lahore High Court and in 1985 with the Supreme Court. He was then elevated as a judge to the LHC in 1998, and the apex court in 2010. Since then, Justice Khosa has been a bit of record-setter. He has decided over 11,000 criminal cases in the past four years, which were outstanding for years. In fact, in his career spanning over two decades, he has presided over 55,000 cases of constitutional, criminal, civil, revenue and election laws. During his time as an advocate, he pleaded almost 20,000 cases. “Justice Khosa’s passion is criminal justice reform,” a senior lawyer, who asked not to be named, told “Judicial activism and accountability of all institutions will continue during his term, but you will see that he will speak less and his judgements will speak for themselves.” The issues on which the new justice will exercise Article 184 (3) powers, which allows the Supreme Court to take suo moto notices on matters of public concern, will be different from the present CJP, he added. Ashtar Ausaf Ali, the former attorney general of Pakistan, agreed. “Justice Khosa is every inch a judge who speaks through his judgments. He has had an enviable career both as a lawyer and a judge.” The new chief justice is a legal analyst par excellence who will bring about reforms in the justice delivery system, Ali went on. “Justice Khosa is a man of few words. He is quiet, extremely intelligent, honest and committed,” said Anwar Mansoor Khan, the attorney general of Pakistan. The 64-year-old judge is academically sound, measured and difficult to persuade, added Ahmer Bilal Soofi, a senior Supreme Court lawyer. “He has a superb command over criminal jurisprudence and the ability to see real facts through file documentation.” But what would the challenges be for the new chief justice as he assumes office? In a recent article for The News, lawyer Babar Sattar argued that the new CJP “will need to revisit the Supreme Court’s ethos to determine if they conform to the code of conduct for judges. There are three models available to a new CJP: business-as-usual; cathartic-saviour; and judicial-reform. In the first, an incumbent sees nothing wrong with how things are, enjoys his days in glory without seeking more and walks into the sunset.” Besides clearing a mounting backlog of court cases, other uphill tasks would include, “continuing with judicial activism, but with an equal focus on judicial reform,” said advocate Faisal Siddiqui. “He is one of the best criminal jurists Pakistan has produced." Another challenge, experts believe, would be implementing the reports by the Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan. To date, 157 reports have been submitted that suggest reviewing laws, but only 90 of which could be implemented in the past five years. “The biggest challenge for the new CJP is twofold: ameliorating the working conditions of the subordinate judiciary and appointing the best to the benches by setting up a permanent recruitment body,” Khawaja Haris, a senior lawyer, opined. “This body will then select, through competitive examination, judges for subordinate judiciary, in the manner similar to the existing recruitment process for civil servants.” Retired supreme court and high court judges will take the exams and interview the candidates for selection, he added, also making it mandatory for each candidate to undergo a medical and psychological examination. Rules, Haris suggested, should be set for a more just and transparent method of dealing with cases of judicial misconduct. Furthermore, there should be guidelines for “taking up cases in suo moto jurisdiction, or directly under 184(3). Especially those that should be first decided by the high courts.” In his 40-year career, what truly stands out are Justice Khosa’s judgements, which echo loudly in the country’s highest judicial body. His verdicts not only cite the legal opinions that came before him but also draw on his own literary experiences. The authors, who have come up in the judgements he penned, include Shakespeare, Khalil Gibran and Mario Puzo. The 2017 verdict into the Panama Papers leak opened with a quote from the 1969 novel, The Godfather, with the words, “Behind every great fortune there is a crime.” In the Asia Bibi case last year, he observed that “it is ironical that in the Arabic language the appellant’s name Asia means ‘sinful,’ but in the circumstances of the present case she appears to be a person, in the words of Shakespeare’s King Lear, ‘more sinned against than sinning’”. Separately, he plucked quotes from Khalil Gibran, “Pity the nation that demands justice for all, but is agitated when justice hurts its political loyalty,” in a six-page additional note released with the detailed verdict in then-Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s contempt case. However, his legacy, to date, has been pinned to sentencing Mumtaz Qadri for the cold-blooded murder of Punjab’s former governor Salman Taseer. When sentencing Qadri, Justice Khosa wrote, “the usual wages for the crimes of the nature committed by the appellant is death, and in the circumstances of this case the appellant deserves no less.”
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