Justice Markandey Katju: Pakistan SC Judges should learn from Qazi Sirajuddin

Justice Markandey Katju

By Justice Markandey Katju–

(Justice Markandey Katju is a former Judge, Supreme Court of India, and former Chairman, Press Council of India. The views expressed are his own)

What has been witnessed in recent times is the almost total abandonment by the Pakistan Supreme Court Judges of their solemn duty of upholding their country’s Constitution.

For example, Article 224(2) thereof, and of protecting the liberties and rights of the people, ten thousand of whom, including former Prime Minister Imran Khan, are in jail in terrible conditions. Many, including women, have been dragged out of their houses, which were broken into, and often brutally tortured, while the judiciary is silent.

The judges probably think that if they interfere and refuse to cow down and surrender to the dictates of the Pakistan establishment they will be made to suffer personally in some way.

For that reason, they are not doing their solemn duty, and have turned a Nelson’s eye to these horrors.

But I would like to tell them about a judge, Qazi Sirajuddin, who did his duty even at the risk of his head being cut off by the Sultan.

In his ‘History of Bengal’ Prof. Charles Stewart mentions an interesting case of 1490 before Qazi Sirajuddin, the Qazi -e-Subah of Bengal.

One day, while the Sultan of Bengal was practising archery, one of his arrows accidentally wounded a boy, the son of a widow. The widow immediately came before the Qazi and demanded justice.

The Judge (the Qazi) was in a dilemma. He said to himself, “If I summon the Sultan to my court, he may cut off my head for impertinence, but if I overlook his act, I shall one day certainly be summoned before the Court of God to answer for my neglect of duty.”

After much reflection, fear of God prevailed over fear of the Sultan, and the Qazi ordered one of his officers to go and summon the Sultan to his Court.

On receiving the summons, the Sultan instantly rose, and concealing a short sword under his garments, went before the Qazi, who far from rising from his seat or showing the Sultan any mark of respect said to him, “You have wounded the son of this poor widow. You must therefore immediately pay her adequate compensation, or suffer the sentence of the law.”

The Sultan made a bow, and turning to the widow gave her a sum of money which satisfied her. After doing so, he told the Qazi, “O Worthy Judge, the complainant has forgiven me.”

The Qazi asked the woman if she was satisfied, to which she assented, and the case was dismissed.

The Qazi then came down from his seat and made obeisance before his sovereign, the Sultan, who, drawing the sword from beneath his garment, said, “O Qazi, in obedience to your command, I came instantly to your Court, but if you had not done your duty I swear that with this sword I would have taken off your head. Thanks to God, I have in my dominion a judge who acknowledges no authority superior to the law.”

The Qazi then took out a whip which he had concealed under his robes, and said to the King, “I also swear by Almighty God that if you had not complied with the injunction of the law this whip would have made your back black and blue. It has been a trial for both of us.”

Let the Pakistan Supreme Court judges learn from this historical account. They are all god-fearing Muslims. Probably they are only thinking of their present comforts. But how will they answer Allah when brought before him?

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