Medical science tells us that the hormone known as adrenaline is released inside an animal’s body in response to fear, anxiety or excitement. What is more interesting is that the hormone is secreted as a result of the body’s psychosomatic functions — the presence of a real cause for fear or excitement hardly matters. Just the perception is enough. This adrenaline rush can save one’s life in an actual dangerous situation, but when it happens repeatedly for no practical reason, it causes irreparable harm to the body and mind.
But what does any of this have to do with our judiciary?
While judiciary per se can’t be subject to such medical conditions, those who join it can certainly be, as they are after all, human beings. In a patriarchal society, mired with nepotistic tendencies in view of pervasive economic inequality, scarce opportunities of upward mobility, virtually no social security available from the state, and more importantly — the very appointment process of the judges in the apex courts being anything but meritorious, the risk of judges making decisions through the mental fog of adrenaline rush is always there which we have witnessed in the form of the populist judiciary under Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry a few years back and perhaps now again.
Evidently, our noble judiciary has taken it upon themselves to straighten out the country’s grossly deviant system of government which is run by functionaries mired by numerous allegations of corruption. It is quite possible that the consequent excitement has led the judges in the apex courts to conduct the business of the courts under an adrenaline rush. Much like when adrenaline is released in human body, it signals the brain to redirect energy and blood from the internal organs to the muscles in order to prepare our bodies for strenuous physical activity, adrenaline causes an increased heart rate, high blood pressure, high body temperature and rapid, shallow respiration- this is what best analogous to the situation of our judiciary during the tenure of CJ Iftikhar Chaudhry, who saw all acts of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government as illegal and now again when the PMLN feels it has been dealt with the same way as the PPP was a few years back.
When we are in a state of adrenaline fuelled rage we tend to become aggressive perpetrators of injustice instead of the just figures we imagine ourselves to be
These developments are far from positive. When we are in a state of adrenaline fuelled rage we tend to become aggressive perpetrators of injustice instead of the just figures we imagine ourselves to be. Similarly, some of the apex courts’ decisions have caused quite a lot of harm and virtually no justice. For instance, during the tenure of CJ Iftikhar Chaudhry the SC took suo motu notice of two international deals: the Reko Diq mining project in Balochistan and the Karkay rental power project.
Both notices were taken following agenda driven sensational prime time talk shows. Eventually, the Supreme Court shot down both of these deals as illegal, without fully considering the nature of the agreements and liabilities involved. The Australia based Tethyan Copper Company and Turkey based Karkay Company took their case to the World Bank’s International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). After almost four years of hearings, the ICSID arbitration found our Supreme Court’s decisions in these cases to be faulty and favoured the positions taken by Tethyan and Karkay respectively.
Not only did these verdicts passed under a malicious rush against political governments invite embarrassment at international forums, they also damaged the confidence of international businesses in Pakistan and cost the country financially in damages owed to these companies.
Likewise, what else might have forced an honourable judge of the Supreme Court recently to indulge in calling a sitting Prime Minister, who had already presented himself for a judicial inquiry in the Panama Offshore Assets case, as a Mafia don or Godfather than malice or disgust. Of course, the courts’ decisions are subject to public comment and if affected the PML-N can cry hoarse over lack of justice in the Panama case as compared to what the Supreme Court decided for the PML-N’s arch rival Imran Khan, which obviously had the potential to destroy the political relevance of the PML-N and its leader Nawaz Sharif, the judges of the apex court must not be seen as being offended and start slapping PML-N leaders with ‘contempt of court’ and possible disqualifications.
Dramatic and variable verdicts in similar cases uproot the workability of the justice system. It is extremely important for judges to help keep the system functional by inducing certainty and predictability so that stability can take root. The Judiciary will better serve the cause of justice if those at its helm keep their minds free of any revolutionary ideals. Instead its influence, honour and credibility as an institution lie in dispensing justice dispassionately and away from their coverage in the media, thus acting as an invisible and impartial guarantor of the rule of law.
The writer is a sociologist with interest in history and politics. He tweets @ZulfiRao1
Published in Daily Times, February 8th 2018.