Pakistan’s Judicial History and Acting Chief Justice Rana Bhagwandas

Posted on March 24, 2007
Filed Under >Adil Najam, History, Law & Justice, Minorities, People
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Adil Najam

The swearing in of Justice Rana Bhagwandas as the Acting Chief Justice (ACJ) of Pakistan is not a ‘historical’ event in and of itself. However, Justice Bhagwandas now has a historical opportunity before him to influence the both the history of the institution he represents (the Judiciary) as well as the history of the country.

First some points of context:

Indeed, it is a little disconcerting that his taking over this office – which was the procedurally appropriate thing to be done – is raising such attention. It is doing so, partly, on the assumption that the appointment of Justice Javed Iqbal as ACJ before him had some sinister purpose. Largely, it is because most Pakistanis have only just realized that Justice Bhagwandas is a practicing Hindu, and there are clearly those who want to make this an issue, even questioning his appropriateness for that reason. It is also, I think, that people’s faith in the judicial process is so low that they assume that he will soon, necessarily, assume the office of the Chief Justice. (It should be added that he is slated to retire at the age of 65, which happens this December; Justcie Iftikhar, on the other hand, does not retire till 2013).

Justice Rana Bhagwandas is – as, in fact, was Justice Javed Iqbal before him – considered to be a highly respected judge of high intellectual caliber and personal integrity. Born in 1942, Justce Bhagwandas became a lawyer like many other educated Sindhi Hindus and also has a post-graduate degree in Islamic studies and is considered an expert on constitutional law. He was a practising lawyer for about two years before being appointed to the bench in July 1967; he became a judge of the Sindh High Court in 1994; and of the Supreme Court in 2000. A challenge to his appointment to the higher judiciary on the grounds that he was a non-Muslim was dismissed by the Sindh High Court in 2002.

It is (a) because the prescribed procedure was followed here in his appointment, and (b) because he is a highly respected judge and a constitutional expert, that one should focus on this appointment. He is obviously aware of the historical decisions ahead of him. His first statement after taking his oath could be misconstrued as over-enthusiastic but one would like to believe that there is no hidden message in this statement and he is merely being diplomatic. According to The News:

Acting Chief Justice of Pakistan (ACJP), Rana Bhagwan Das has said that the presidential reference against Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry would be dealt with adequately. Talking to the media after taking oath as ACJP, Justice Bhagwan Das told that the Supreme Judicial Council would be taking a decision on the issue of holding the hearing of the reference in open or in camera. He said that the judiciary would not disappoint the people and the nation would soon hear the good news.

The history of the Pakistan Supreme Court and of Justices in this situation is a ‘busy’ one. Too busy, in my opinion. But it is not an even one. There have been shameful examples when the courts have allowed themselves to become tools in the hands of military and political leaders; but there have also been times when the Justices have made the nation proud by standing up to all pressures and deciding solely on the merit of the cases.

Judges, of course, love to hear about precedent. Here, the precedence lies in both direction. The question is, which precedent will Justice Rana Bhagwandas follow?

For anyone interested in the history of the Judiciary in such cases – both good and bad – do watch this very informative BBC report on the subject.

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64 responses to “Pakistan’s Judicial History and Acting Chief Justice Rana Bhagwandas”

  1. MQ says:

    The guy in the picture looks more like Dr. Amir Liaquat Hussain of the aalim online fame. That is, before he had the face-lift.

  2. KAWA1 says:

    Shk, thanks for bringing this to notice. Do they have any shame left… After all those speeches of Quaid “Altaf Hussain” about women’s rights!!!!!

  3. shk says:

    Totday Breaking news

    MQM blocked Aaj TV, two other pvt channels telecast in Sindh

    See the shameful act of MQM.

    Surprisingly no one covered the shameful event of city council in which an MQM member is beating a woman member with his belt…!! One can clearly see the women rights champion in action in Karachi city council appeared in Jang frontpage yesterday. let5.gif

    MQM’s Nazim from baldia beating a woman with his belt while she ducks for cover….

  4. KAWA1 says:


    ISLAMABAD, May 4: A middle-aged man missing since 2003 was produced in the Supreme Court on Friday in such a bad shape that the court ordered his immediate medical check-up.

    “This skeleton of a man has a reward of Rs3 million on his head in the Red Book of our Interior Ministry,â€

  5. KAWA1 says:


    If anyone needs to be far sighted and support the independence of judiciary, it is the Chaudry Brothers.

    You don’t need a crystal ball to see that the two of them will be lingering in jails for a very very long time somewhere in future.

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