CJP Bandial lauds the remarkable role of late Justice Cornelius for upholding the supremacy of the Constitution
LAHORE: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Atta Bandial applauded the contributions of Justice A.R. Cornelius, a former judge of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, who he said was a good jurist while recalling the history of the judiciary in Pakistan.
Justice Bandial expressed these views while delivering a keynote address at the annual A.R. Cornelius Conference recently held at a local Hotel in Lahore. The conference titled ‘Privilege of the Religious Minorities in the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan’ was organized by the Implementation Minority Rights Forum (IMRF). The conference was attended by people from all walks of life across Pakistan and a large number of clergymen were also present on the occasion. The conference started with the national anthem, followed by the national justice anthem written by former CJP Tassaduq Hussain Jillani and recitations from the Holy Bible and Holy Quran.
While speaking about the landmark decisions made by the late Justice Cornelius, the CJP stressed the need for judges to have the qualities of Justice Cornelius in order to ensure justice was done. The CJP spoke at length while highlighting Justice Cornelius' decisions, including declaring the dissolution of assemblies by the governor-general as illegal in 1955. He gave examples of how Justice Cornelius upheld the Constitution, lifted the ban on Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) in 1964 as the Constitution gave the fundamental right of association. Justice Cornelius retired two months earlier than scheduled so that his fellow judge Dr. S.A. Rehman could also become the CJP, he added.
Justice Bandial further stated that the decisions of courts have moral authority and that protecting the constitution was one of the judiciary's basic duties. He stressed that every citizen had basic rights that must be protected, and it was the right of the Supreme Court to ensure that those rights were upheld. Chief Justice Bandial emphasised the importance of resolving issues through dialogue and promoting knowledge as a means of developing the country. He reiterated that everyone was subject to the law, and when the truth was avoided, justice was avoided.
The CJP said he was chairman of the implementation bench for quite some time and always received cooperation from the government. Since the 2014 landmark judgment of the then Chief Justice of Pakistan Tassaduq Hussain Jillani to constitute a national council of minorities’ rights, the One-Man Commission on Minority Rights, headed by Dr. Shoaib Suddle has heard and decided many cases in favour of minorities. He said Samuel Pyara, Executive Director of IMRF, has been consistently filing cases and won a number of rights for minorities.
“Supreme Court of Pakistan’s judgment has moral authority. Our judgment may not be implemented today, but it will be; it will survive the test of time,” he expressed his belief. The CJP said political leaders need to start negotiations. “Courts cannot pass executive orders,” added the CJP.
Those who spoke on the occasion other than the CJP Bandial were former CJP Tasadduq Hussain Jillani, Sabahat Rizvi, the first woman elected as secretary of Lahore High Court Bar Association in 150 years, Bishop Azad Marshall, president of the Church of Pakistan and chairman of National Church Council Pakistan and Samuel Pyara Executive Director IMRF.
Speaking on the occasion, former CJP Tasadduq Hussain Jilani stated, “The courts should have to play a more active role for protecting and safeguarding human rights. The courts should also work on a pedagogical role, that is, to educate people.” Talking about the implementation of his 2014 judgment on minorities, Justice Jilani said, “Implementation of judgment requires to be done in a continuous manner.”
The Chairman IMRF, Samuel Pyara called upon the government to e-tag minorities’ properties so that no one tries to usurp their rights. He paid tribute to A.R. Cornelius for his contribution in writing the Constitution and his services to the judiciary. He thanked the One-Man Commission under which minorities got many rights. Still, there are decisions that need implementations such as the one in favour of sanitary workers, he said. The sanitary workers have been facing acute difficulties as they are waiting for payments for months and are working on as low as Rs.8,000/ per month, Samuel Pyara claimed.
Advocate Sabahat Rizvi pointed out that the issues being faced by minorities in Pakistan are overwhelming. She said the national commission for minorities’ rights was Benazir Bhutto’s idea and she was the first one to work on interfaith harmony. There is no national council on minorities yet while from 2014 till now, only 22 percent of cases of minorities have been decided in their favour.
Bishop Azad Marshall stressed the need to create a pluralistic society. The Article-20 of the Constitution confers on individuals the right to practice their faith and propagate their religion. He also highlighted the issue of forced conversions and termed it as against the Constitution. Moreover, abuse of blasphemy law is a cause of serious concern and the 2017 census grossly underrates the number of Christians in the country, Bishop Marshall added.
The speakers paid rich tribute to A.R. Cornelius, shed light on the rights, minorities have won, and the issues that are relegating them to secondary status and demand immediate attention.
It is worth mentioning here that Alvin Robert Cornelius, (8 May 1903 – 21 December 1991) was a Pakistani jurist, legal philosopher and judge, served as the 4th Chief Justice of Pakistan from 1960 until 1968. He was the first Christian and longest-serving Chief Justice of Pakistan. Justice Cornelius was residing permanently in Faletti's Hotel Lahore after retirement. He died at the age of 88 on 21 December 1991 in Lahore and was laid to rest in the city's Christian Cemetery Jail Road Lahore.