Pakistan chief justice sparks debate over ‘judicial activism’

Pakistan chief justice Saqib Nisar. (Photo courtesy: social media)
Updated 01 April 2018
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Pakistan chief justice sparks debate over ‘judicial activism’

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani chief justice’s statement on Saturday about why he is intervening in the executive domain has triggered a debate about whether "judicial activism" is a step toward providing speedy justice in the country.
Saqib Nisar said he did not intend to intervene in the work of the executive, but “was compelled to do so due to the poor state of affairs.”
Sen. Mushahidullah Khan of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) said the Supreme Court should focus on clearing its backlog of more than 3 million cases instead of interfering in the executive domain by taking suo motu notices on petty issues.
“The Supreme Court is custodian of the constitution, which doesn’t allow it to try to address issues pertaining to governance in the center and the provinces,” he told Arab News.
The apex court should focus on dispensing timely justice to the people, as this will increase its integrity and respect within society, he added.
“We don’t want to undermine the authority of any institution, including the Supreme Court, but we can’t allow it to usurp executive powers under the garb of judicial activism,” he said.
Khan acknowledged flaws in governance, but said Pakistan’s judiciary is full of “weaknesses.”
He added: “Instead of trying to correct each other, every institution should perform within the parameters of the constitution for the betterment of the country.”
He vowed to introduce judicial reforms to address all these issues if his party retains power following the upcoming general elections.
Habibullah Khan, a senior advocate of the Supreme Court, expressed support for its intervention in the work of the executive, saying: “Politicians and Parliament have failed to respond to problems of the common man.”
If all institutions were working to address issues faced by the public, the judiciary would not have been burdened with tens of thousands of cases, he added.
“The Supreme Court’s interference in the work of the executive should be a wakeup call for elected representatives of the people,” he said. “If the executive does not do its job, then other institutions will try to fill the vacuum.”
The constitution also allows the court to take notice of matters that come directly under the ambit of fundamental human rights, Habibullah added.
“Under the constitution, the superior courts can also interfere in public-interest litigation for the provision of speedy justice,” he said.
Rasul Bakhsh Rais, a well-known political analyst, said superior courts worldwide take notice of public issues when governments fail to address them.
“The Supreme Court is not doing anything unusual,” he said. “It is the duty of the court to protect the fundamental rights of the people, and direct the executive to do what is necessary.”
A state cannot survive if both Parliament and the apex court fail to address genuine public grievances, Rais said.
“There should not be a power struggle between the institutions. Rather, they should cooperate with each other to improve the state of affairs,” he added.
Tahir Malik, a public university professor and political analyst, said the government should strengthen institutions, including Parliament, by introducing reforms, which is the only way to address complaints regarding judicial activism.
“Mere political statements and rhetoric for public consumption regarding judicial overreach are going to make no difference,” he said.
“The federal and provincial governments need to improve their governance to counter interference in their work by other institutions.”


Japan apologizes to those forcibly sterilized, vows redress

Updated 30 min 20 sec ago
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Japan apologizes to those forcibly sterilized, vows redress

  • An estimated 25,000 people were given unconsented sterilization while the 1948 Eugenics Protection Law was in place until 1996
  • The government had until recently maintained the sterilizations were legal at the time

TOKYO: Japan’s government apologized Wednesday to tens of thousands of victims forcibly sterilized under a now-defunct Eugenics Protection Law and promised to pay compensation.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said he was offering “sincere remorse and heartfelt apology” to the victims.
His apology comes just after the parliament enactment earlier Wednesday of legislation to provide redress measures, including $28,600 (¥3.2 million) compensation for each victim.
An estimated 25,000 people were given unconsented sterilization while the 1948 Eugenics Protection Law was in place until 1996. The law was designed to “prevent the birth of poor-quality descendants” and allowed doctors to sterilize people with disabilities. It was quietly renamed as the Maternity Protection Law in 1996, when the discriminatory condition was removed.
The redress legislation acknowledges that many people were forced to have operations to remove their reproductive organs or radiation treatment to get sterilized, causing them tremendous pain mentally and physically.
The government had until recently maintained the sterilizations were legal at the time.
The apology and the redress law follow a series of lawsuits by victims who came forward recently after breaking decades of silence. That prompted lawmakers from both ruling and opposition parties to draft a compensation package to make amends for the victims.
The plaintiffs are seeking about ¥30 million each ($268,000) in growing legal actions that are spreading around the country, saying the government’s implementation of the law violated the victims’ right to self-determination, reproductive health and equality. They say the government redress measures are too small for their suffering.
In addition to the forced sterilizations, more than 8,000 others were sterilized with consent, though likely under pressure, while nearly 60,000 women had abortions because of hereditary illnesses, according to Japan Federation of Bar Associations.
Among them were about 10,000 leprosy patients who had been confined in isolated institutions until 1996, when the leprosy prevention law was also abolished. The government has already offered compensation and an apology to them for its forced isolation policy.