In front of the Sindh High Court’s six ionic columns, Justice Mushir Alam, 55, was sworn in as the new and youngest chief justice of the Sindh High Court on Monday.
The ceremony was groundbreaking as it was held for the first time at the SHC premises. All previous oath-taking ceremonies had taken place at Governor House. Another first was that the chief justice’s own son, Hafiz Muhammad Ibrahim Alam, performed the recitation from the Holy Quran.
Chief Justice Alam thanked the governor and the chief minister for the ceremony, saying it was held only because of their determination as they had faced opposition. “Other high courts will also follow suit,” he said with hope.
The acting chief secretary read out the notification of his appointment and then Governor Dr Ishratul Ebad Khan administered the oath.
Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah, judges, Deputy Speaker Shehla Raza, ministers and advisers attended. Former judges were special invitees, including delegations from all district bar associations of Sindh.
‘New face of judiciary’
The new chief justice promised a “new face of the judiciary” with vigour and commitment to dispense justice to all. In an informal talk with the media after the ceremony, he said that bar associations across the province will be asked to recommend names of advocates, who are known to be the best, to appoint as judges in both the lower and superior courts. “We will take judges from the whole of Sindh and I hope that good judges will be sitting in the benches in future,” he said. About the prolonged tenure of an SHC additional judge, he defended the extension in service as it provides a test and trial period for the judge.
The procedure to remove a judge is lengthy and so it is better to see his work before he is confirmed as a permanent judge, he explained.
He hinted at establishing fast-track courts who would give priority to senior-citizen litigants and the poor who are incarcerated for years without trial.
“I will ensure that the court for minor offences, which are idle at the moment, work fully. I would also ensure that alternative methods including Arbitration and Alternate Dispute Resolution are employed to reduce the number of new cases.”
The CJ urged the government and private organisations to have a system of in-house justice. The Sindh Judicial Academy would help, he offered. “If the organisations carry out their functions according to the law, the courts will be relieved of unnecessary litigations.”
About the increase in salaries of employees of the subordinate judiciary, he said the government would take a decision soon. “If a decision is delayed by the government, the court will decide. We are already seized with the hearing of a number of petitions on the same issue.”
A media cell would be established at the SHC to provide “authentic” news. Complainant Agha Javed Pathan, accused of hitting former chief minister Arbab Ghulam Rahim with a shoe, also met the chief justice and said his brother was unfairly targeted because of the incident. The chief justice asked him to file a representation. “Inshallah [God willing], we will be dispensing justice.”
A little about the new CJ
Born on August 18, 1956, Chief Justice Alam is the third generation of lawyers in his family. He did his LLB from SM Law College and joined the Karachi Bar in 1981.
He was elevated to the SHC bench on April 20, 1999.
The humble Chief Justice Mushir Alam is not fond of giving his judgments for reporting in the law magazines and digests, which lawyers use for reference.
But he is known for one landmark judgement dating back to 2009 (and reported in the Sindh Balochistan Law Report of February 2011).
It pertained to several Pakistanis who were arrested, tried and convicted in Sri Lanka for forged traveller’s cheques with one of them being sentenced to 139 years in jail. Justice Mushir pointed out that the sentence was not compatible with Pakistani law, which was just six years. The men were extradited and given shorter sentences because of this.