November 13th, 2020
Chief Justice of Peshawar High Court Waqar Ahmad Seth was laid to rest in Peshawar as lawyers across the country observed a day of mourning on his demise.
Justice Seth was born on 16th March, 1961, in a middle class family of Dera Ismail Khan. He did his schooling from Peshawar and graduated with a law degree in 1985 and a post-graduation in political science in 1986 from Peshawar University. His father, Seth Abdul Wahid, retired as a district and sessions judge. Khudha Buksh, his maternal grandfather, was a judge on the province’s first apex court in 1929. He leaves behind a wife and daughter. Seth received his schooling from Cantt Public School in Peshawar. He did his bachelor degree from Islamia College, Peshawar in 1981. He graduated with a law degree from Peshawar’s Khyber Law College in 1985. Seth did his post-graduation in political science from University of Peshawar in 1986.
A large number of lawyers and people from all walks of life, including high court judges, attended the esteemed judge’s funeral in the city. The funeral was conducted as per Covid-19 SOPs and a distance of at least three feet was maintained between the attendees. The lawyers observed a day of mourning on the appeal of the Pakistan Bar Council and the Supreme Court Bar Association. The PHC CJ passed away on November 12 after battling the COVID infection for 15 days at the age of .
According to information available on the PHC website, Justice Seth authored 173 judgments since taking oath of a high court judge on 2nd August, 2011. He was elevated as Chief Justice of Peshawar High Court on June 28, 2018.
Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth came to the limelight when he convicted military ruler General (retd) Pervez Musharraf for high treason and sentenced him to death as one of the two judges on a three-judge special court. Justice Seth headed the special court on high treason. Known for his bold decisions, Justice Seth had acquitted 75 convicts of military courts in 2018. He ruled that those convictions on account of different acts of terrorism were of no evidence and were based on malice in facts and law. The said judgment had also assumed international importance in the case of Indian spy Kulbhushan Sudhir Jadhav as the Government of Pakistan in an application filed by the Indian government before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) had cited it in support of its contention.
Another important judgment, by a bench of Chief Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth and Justice Mussarat Hilali, declared Action (in Aid of Civil Power) Ordinance, 2019, as well as identical regulations of 2011 as unconstitutional and ordered the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government to declare all the internment centres as sub-jails within 24 hours. The bench had ruled that the said ordinance violated all the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan.
Chief Justice Waqar Seth, while heading a two-member bench, directed the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government to formulate rules within seven days for allocation of development schemes and not to release any development funds till that time. The bench had disposed of a petition filed by over 30 opposition MPAs of KP Assembly, who had challenged unjust distribution of developmental funds by the KP chief minister in the fiscal budget 2018-19.
According to Noor Alam, member of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Bar Council, Justice Seth was hearing scores of pending cases of missing persons and military courts convicts besides many other petitions against the provincial government prior to his death. Alam said Justice Seth had refused to shut the high court during the COVID pandemic and regularly heard cases in that period.
Plea for elevation to Supreme Court
Justice Seth had also submitted a petition to the Supreme Court about being ignored for elevation to the apex court in June.
In a recent application filed before Supreme Court on November 10, Justice Seth pleaded that he has a lawful right to be considered for the appointment as a judge of the Supreme Court of Pakistan against the available vacancy that has occurred on the retirement of Justice Faisal Arab on Nov 4. Justice Seth said he was the senior-most chief justice amongst all the high court chief justices, and a vacancy has also occurred since the retirement of Justice Ijaz Afzal Khan in May 2018.
In his previous petition, Justice Seth had questioned the elevation of three judges Justice Qazi Mohammad Amin, Justice Aminuddin Khan and Justice Sayyed Mazhar Ali Akbar Naqvi to the Supreme Court. Justice Seth had stated he was superseded three times in this elevation to the SC without a valid reason or justification.