Address by Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa Chief Justice of Pakistan in the Full Court Reference held in honour of the retiring Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed on August 27, 2019
Islamabad, August 27, 2019 (PPI-OT): Honourable Judges,
Attorney-General for Pakistan,
Vice-Chairman, Pakistan Bar Council,
President, Supreme Court Bar Association,
Members of the Bar,
Ladies and gentlemen.
Today we are parting company with one of the most distinguished and erudite Judges that I have had the honour and privilege of working with in the Lahore High Court, Lahore and the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Honourable Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed has been an enormous asset to the superior judiciary throughout his time on the Bench and I have always benefitted from his intellect and rich experience. Sheikh Sahib has always carried with him all aspects of proper judicial conduct, be it fairness, open-mindedness, courage, firmness, punctuality, courtesy, understanding and compassion.
Born on the 28th of August, 1954 at Rawalpindi Sheikh Sahib completed his basic education in the same city. He did his Senior Cambridge from St. Mary’s Academy in the year 1970 and graduated from Sir Syed College, Rawalpindi in the year 1974. He joined the Punjab University Law College, Lahore and obtained his LL.B. Degree in the year 1978.
Sheikh Sahib’s journey in the legal profession started in the year 1978 at Rawalpindi and after completion of apprenticeship he was enrolled as an Advocate in the year 1978. After working in various law chambers he started his independent legal practice in Lahore in the year 1980, was enrolled as an Advocate of the Lahore High Court in the year 1981 and was subsequently enrolled as an Advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. He was appointed as legal advisor to the Lahore Development Authority in the year 1996.
Sheikh Sahib was appointed as a Special Prosecutor in the Ehtesab Bureau in the year 1997 and remained a member of the legal team prosecuting high profile cases before the Lahore High Court Lahore and its Rawalpindi Bench. He was appointed as Deputy Prosecutor-General, National Accountability Bureau at Islamabad in the year 2000 for a period of one year and was then appointed as a Special Prosecutor in the said Bureau in the year 2001 for prosecuting cases before the Accountability Courts at Attock Fort and Rawalpindi.
Sheikh Sahib had also taught in the Quaid-e-Azam Law College, Lahore as a part-time lecturer for three years. Sheikh Sahib was a brilliant commercial litigator and during his most successful career as a lawyer he had conducted a large number of cases before the Civil and Banking Courts and different High Courts. He had also appeared as an Advocate before the Cricket Inquiry Committee and had participated in its proceedings held in Pakistan and Australia.
In addition to litigation he was also involved in negotiations of various commercial and financial transactions both inside and outside Pakistan. He participated in an international conference on financial crimes and money laundering. His personal and professional commitments had taken him to various countries in the world including the United States of America, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Australia, Turkey, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Thailand.
Sheikh Sahib was appointed as an Additional Judge of the Lahore High Court on the 1st of December 2004 and on confirmation took oath as a Judge of the Lahore High Court on the 1st of December 2005. In June 2006 he was nominated as a Member of the Board of Governors, National College of Arts. Mr. Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed was appointed as the Chief Justice of the Lahore High Court in the year 2011 and was finally appointed as a Judge of the Supreme Court of Pakistan on the 1st of June 2012. Between 31st July and 3rd August, 2019 Sheikh Sahib had the singular distinction of acting as the Chief Justice of Pakistan.
During his time here at the Supreme Court, Sheikh Sahib has rendered many landmark judgments and settled many uncertain issues. His faithfulness to constitutionalism and rule of law has been a hallmark of his judgments and his adherence to law and law alone is writ large in his opinions. Dealing with the question of limitations on the power of the Parliament to amend the Constitution his lordship held in the case of District Bar Association, Rawalpindi and others v Federation of Pakistan and others (PLD 2015 SC 401) as follows:
“A bird’s eye view of the Constitution reveals that it is self-evident that Pakistan is a Democracy with the ultimate sovereignty vesting in Almighty Allah and delegated to the people of Pakistan (and not to any individual or group of persons who may seize power by force of arms). It has a Parliamentary form of Government. The Fundamental Rights are guaranteed to all Citizens, including minorities. There is a Trichotomy of Power with a judiciary with its independence fully secured. Rule of Law, Equality and Social and Economic Justice are embodied in no uncertain terms. The aforesaid are the prominent characteristics which define our Constitution.”
Sheikh Sahib’s ability to grasp and comprehend complex points in a matter of seconds and his lordship’s skill of reducing intricate and complicated points of law to simple propositions are only a few of his many qualities that make Sheikh Sahib such an excellent Judge. Sheikh Sahib’s approach in deciding cases was clear and straightforward and young Judges would do better if they heed to what Sheikh Sahib had observed in the case of Malik Shakeel Awan v Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed and 21 others (Civil Appeal No. 467 OF 2015). In that case of an election dispute his lordship had observed that:
“This Court, for that matter any court, seized of a lis is required to decide the same rather than to embark upon an academic exercise. We cannot shy away from adjudicating upon the lis that comes before the Court without attempting to ascertain and identify the principles of law as developed through the interpretative process of the previous judgments of this Court and apply the same to the facts of the case.”
Sheikh Sahib’s capacity to understand a proposition with the speed of light, his razor-sharp wit and a penetrating but endearing sense of humour have been found by me to be indomitable features of his personality. I am sure that everyone present here must have had the pleasure of coming into contact with these qualities of Sheikh Sahib and I, for one, shall dearly miss them after his lordship’s departure from the Bench.
In the end, with fondest of memories and with every good wish I on my own behalf and also on behalf of all my colleagues bid farewell to our very dear friend and illustrious colleague Mr. Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed. Sir, we shall all miss you on the Bench but at the same time all of us pray for your good health, long life and further fruitful contributions in diverse walks of life in the days to come. May Almighty Allah bless you and your family. A’meen.
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