Justice Umar Ata Bandial sworn-in as 28th Chief Justice of Pakistan
The oath-taking ceremony that took place here at the Presidency was also attended by Prime Minister Imran Khan. Cabinet members, parliamentarians, senior military officials and a large number of serving and retired judges of the Supreme Court were present.
ISLAMABAD: President Dr. Arif Alvi administered an oath of office to Justice Umar Ata Bandial as Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP). The oath-taking ceremony that took place here at the Presidency was also attended by Prime Minister Imran Khan. Cabinet members, parliamentarians, senior military officials and a large number of serving and retired judges of the Supreme Court were present. The notification of the appointment of Justice Umar Bandial was read out on the occasion. “In exercise of the powers conferred by Article 175(3) read with Article 177 of the Constitution, the president of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is pleased to appoint Mr. Justice Umar Ata Bandial, the most senior judge of the Supreme Court, as chief justice of Pakistan with effect [from] Feb 2, 2022,” the notification said.
Justice Bandial took oath as the country’s 28th top judge after the retirement of CJP Gulzar Ahmed on February 1. He is expected to remain in office on Nov 27, 2027, when he would be succeeded by Justice Munib Akhtar. Justice Yahya Afridi would be the country’s next top judge from Dec 14, 2028, until Jan 22, 2030.
Born in Lahore on Sept 17, 1958, Justice Bandial received elementary and secondary education from different schools in Kohat, Rawalpindi, Peshawar, and Lahore. He secured a bachelor’s degree in economics from Columbia University, followed by a Law Tripos degree from Cambridge, and qualified as a barrister-at-law from the prestigious Lincoln’s Inn in London.
In 1983, he was enrolled as an advocate of the Lahore High Court (LHC) and a few years later, as an advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
In his law practice at Lahore, Justice Bandial dealt mostly with commercial, banking, tax, and property matters. Justice Bandial also handled international commercial disputes after 1993, right up until his elevation.
Justice Bandial also appeared in arbitration matters before the Supreme Court and various international arbitral tribunals in London and Paris.
Justice Bandial was elevated as a judge of the LHC on Dec 4, 2004. He was one of the judges who declined to retake their oath under the Provisional Constitution Order (PCO) of Nov 2007, when Gen Pervez Musharraf proclaimed a state of emergency on Nov 3, 2007.
Justice Bandial then served as chief justice of the LHC for two years until his elevation as a judge of the apex court in June 2014. During his career in the superior judiciary, Justice Bandial has rendered a number of important judgments on issues of public and private law. These include pronouncements on civil and commercial disputes, constitutional rights, and public interest matters. Justice Bandial also taught contract law and torts law at the Punjab University Law College, Lahore until 1987 and remained a member of its graduate studies committee while serving as the LHC judge. Yahya Afridi would be the country’s next top judge from Dec 14, 2028, until Jan 22, 2030. Meanwhile, Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Gulzar Ahmed bade farewell at a full court reference held at the Supreme Court, attended by all the judges of the apex court. Attorney General of Pakistan Khalid Jawed Khan, Pakistan Bar Council Vice Chairman Hafeez-ur-Rehman Chaudhry, retired senior judges, lawyers, journalists as well as the CJP’s family members were also in attendance. Justice Gulzar Ahmed took the oath as 27th Chief Justice of Pakistan on December 21, 2019, and today was his last day in office. Addressing the reference, Justice Gulzar Ahmed said no sooner he took the office of CJP, the COVID-19 pandemic started showing its full face with scores of people got affected by it.
At all levels, shut-downs were being made. In consultation with colleagues, he said, standard operating procedures (SOPs) were devised for litigants, lawyers, officers, and staff of the court. The court, however, continued to function, and not for a single day it was closed. For the benefit of lawyers and litigants, special dispensation was introduced where the limitation period for filing of proceedings before the apex court was extended, he added. He said there had always been differences in institution and disposal of cases, and invariably the institution had always been on the higher side. The chief justice said he had a sigh of relief as he noted that against the institution of 38,680 cases during his tenure as CJP, the SC had decided 27,426 cases. “I have heard and decided 4,392 cases. The SC judges, despite all odds and risks to their health, ensured that dispensation of justice was continued and disputes of the people were resolved. He said there must be harmony between the three state organs, and they were expected to work for achieving the goals set out in the Constitution. “The most important attributes of judiciary and judges are independence, fearlessness, and integrity. Similar is the onerous and arduous task to be followed by the members of the Bar.” He said the issues relating to Gender-Based Violence, Juvenile Justice, and Child Courts were also addressed and the performance of the Model Courts established by his predecessor was discussed and decisions on them were taken.
Issues relating to pendency and vacancy in the superior courts and district judiciary, he added, were extensively deliberated and decisions were made. The issues relating to disposal of cases in administrative tribunals/special courts, both federal and provincial, were discussed, and measures were adopted to ensure their early disposal, he added. Speaking on the occasion, Justice Umar Ata Bandial said the Supreme Court hastened its efforts to make itself digitally/virtually more accessible to advocates and litigants alike by doubling the capacity of its Video Link System. A total of 4,143 cases had been taken up/heard via Video Link during Justice Gulzar’s tenure.A challenge that confronted the court when Justice Gulzar assumed the office of CJP, he said, was the pending constitutional petition filed by one of the brother judges against Presidential Reference No.1 of 2019. That matter was heard over 17 months by a larger bench of 10 judges and finally ended on 26th April 2021. It was spread over approximately 60 dates of hearing. On those dates, the regular cause-list of the Benches would have to be curtailed for the larger bench to proceed. The obvious setback to the court, he noted, was the accumulation in its caseload. During the period, the backlog of around 42,000 cases in December 2019 rose to around 50,000 cases in April 2021. Clearly, the remaining 6-7 judges on the court had a herculean task to perform. By the grace of Almighty Allah, Justice Bandial said, the court toiled hard, sometimes by working long hours for months and other times by disregarding health concerns to arrest the accretion in the backlog of cases. Unlike the common perception, almost every judge worked during the vacations, whether in summer or winter, to hear and decide cases in accordance with law and “Insha’Allah we will continue to do so to clear the backlog”. He said the Bar must lend its support for adding capacity to the court for the elevation of judges to the Supreme Court whose seniority, honesty, competency, judicial temperament were accompanied with the diversity of experience suited to the nature of work that needed disposal. He said, “Of the many landmark judgments delivered by his lordship during his tenure as Chief Justice of Pakistan, one that is constitutionally significant is Presidential Reference No.1 of 2020 framed under Article 186 of the Constitution. The Reference asked whether the elections for the members of the Senate of Pakistan held under the Elections Act, 2017 were governed by the condition of “secret ballot” imposed in Article 226 of the Constitution for elections held under the Constitution. His lordship (speaking for the majority) held that an election to the Senate is an election under the Constitution that must be held by secret ballot as provided in Article 226.