For the first time in more than 70 years, an Indian judge — albeit retired — sat on a bench in a court in Pakistan. It was Justice (retd) Madan Lokur of the Supreme Court, who heard three cases for about 45 minutes on Friday. The first matter was a challenge of a conviction; the second a bail hearing; and the third a civil matter, which resulted in a compromise between the two parties.
A two-judge bench in Pakistan’s Supreme Court, consisting of freshly sworn-in 26th Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa and his fellow judge Justice Mansoor Ali Shah, sat with Justice Lokur, President Supreme Court of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus Narin Ferdi Sefik, Chief Judge of the State of Borno Nigeria Kashim Zannah and Sandra E Oxner, former judge and founding president of Commonwealth Judicial Education Institute, Canada.
Justice Lokur, accompanied by his wife Savita Lokur, described the reception in the neighbouring country as “unprecedented”, with the gesture of getting all invitee judges to sit on a bench proving heart-warming. He said the atmosphere was “wonderful and the court was not crowded. Like in India, it was open to the press.”
Justice Lokur has been close friends with Chief Justice Khosa since 2004, when Justice Khosa was in the Lahore High Court and Justice Lokur a judge in the Delhi High Court. Justice Lokur has described him as an “excellent human being and jurist”.
Justice Khosa, who will be in the chair till December 21, 2019, is no stranger to controversy or a run-in with those in authority. He, along with several of his colleagues, was detained at home at the peak of the crisis in the time of General Pervez Musharraf. Three years ago, Justice Khosa headed a three-judge bench that insisted that Musharraf should be tried for treason for “subverting the Constitution” in 2007.
Justice Lokur crossed over from Attari-Wagah on Thursday and will be back in India by the same route on Saturday.
On January 4 this year, when Justice Lokur was asked by The Indian Express if he does not consider his presence in Pakistan for such an event to be an extraordinary gesture at a time when there are few high-profile travellers between the two neighbours, he had said: “Justice knows no boundaries.”
This is not the first time Justice Lokur has attended such a swearing-in ceremony in Pakistan. He was there when former Pakistan Chief Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani was administered the oath of office five years ago.