By Syed M. Aslam
For as long as I remember the poverty-ridden and powerless people here are being systematically conditioned to believe that law and justice are one and the same thing simply because with tables being tilted against the common man the laws are designed to protect the ruling elites who hold all the political, social, and economic powers among themselves. Throughout our checkered history our judicial system has been dealing merely with law with such excess that justice was not only not dispensed but also was not even seen worthy of mentioning. Even the historic Lawyers’ Movement that successfully resulted in reinstalling the illegally removal of the then Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhary talked merely about ‘Rule of Law’ and not ‘Rule of justice’. In short the judicial system here has kept itself preoccupied with ‘law’ and not ‘justice’. And since laws offer many loopholes the petty criminals caught taking bribes of thousands were handled with iron gloves while the rich and powerful have enjoyed getting treated with kids’ gloves. In short, the judicial system here is obsessed about the law at the price of justice. Could anything be anymore unjust and inhumane? The validity of the argument I am putting forward is obvious from the numerous comments made within and outside the court by the immediate past Chief Justice of the country Anwar Zaheer Jamali clearly showed his extreme dissatisfaction with plethora of laws failing to dispense justice. Yes law and justice are two separate entities altogether. Law without justice is like body without soul. It’s about time we begin differentiating between law and justice conscientiously. Yes we have kept ourselves confined to only with law along with all its complexities, nuances, and intricate mechanisms. Isn’t it time to stop confusing law with justice simply because the two are not one and the same thing or even a close equivalent? This is so because number one though laws often appear to be just in many cases they are not and number two at times, and there are instances all around what is believed to be just by many seldom becomes law. An apt example is the draconian ‘law’ which allows one of the most corrupt public utility private commercial power provider K-electric to make its consumers pay the bills no matter how fraudulently excessive they may be in full before even entertaining the rightful complaint. The draconian ‘law’ giving K-Electric the power to arrest consumers on even unjustified and unproved accusation of theft could help you understand that ‘law’ and ‘justice’ are not only not one and the same thing but also concepts that at times are in absolute clash with each other. This confusion between the ‘law’ and ‘justice’ seems to be deliberately fueled- and kept intact- by the most unscrupulous ruling elites anywhere who have amassed all the political, economic, and social powers among their ranks and files. The judicial system here is built to serve and protects the interests of ruling elites with laws made to protect them when required. It merely interprets laws and administers and interprets laws and is not geared to dispense justice because it is built to defend the inhumane reactionary political, economic, social, and cultural interests of a few and thus being hostile to any radical change. In short, the judicial system and the legal practitioners here merely practice law with justice taking a back seat. The question is: if laws fail to deliver justice just what good are they? This is so because Justice is something that we all want from Law and that we believe that should be the integral part of any judicial system. It would have been much better, academic, and profound if this difference between the Law and Justice could have been discussed by one of many eminent legal professionals. However, with those singing “Riasat hogi ma kay jasey (The state would be like mother)” managing to get rewarded for their efforts to got themselves ‘elected’ senator I have to fill in despite being neither a lawyer nor having any legal expertise. The only thing that prevailed was common sense and a sense of extreme injustice by passing off rule of law as rule of justice. Is everyone is equal under the law and is treated as an equal as our constitution promises? Isn’t justice has become a commodity good to be dispensed among the equals? What about the distribution of power and the absence of mechanism to keep the powerful, mighty, and untouchables under the check of the law? What about state and its functionaries repeatedly violating the law with complete impunity at any and all given time? Why the thick tome of law is thrown at the poor and the powerless with full might when the powerful and mighty are accorded preferential treatment even when accused of even the most heinous of crimes? Why equality is sermonized but is nowhere visible in practice? Isn’t the time of eliminating the legal apartheid is right here, right now?