Justice Athar Minallah of the Supreme Court of Pakistan has drawn attention to a crucial aspect of the country’s Constitution, Article 212. This article empowers citizens to seek compensation when public officials fail to fulfill their constitutional responsibilities.
Constitutional Right to Seek Redress
Justice Minallah underscored that the Pakistani Constitution explicitly grants citizens the right to seek redress when their constitutional rights are violated due to the misuse of authority, neglect of public duties, or abuse of power.
This right extends to government officials and individuals in service of Pakistan, including those involved in tax collection. This constitutional provision is a vital safeguard against wrongful acts committed by public authorities.
Underutilized Constitutional Right
The Article 212 has remained relatively underutilized. Courts have seldom invoked this right, and citizens have rarely initiated claims against public power abuse.
Justice Minallah regretted the lack of special courts to address cases related to this right. However, the absence of these courts does not diminish the citizens’ entitlement to seek remedies against wrongful acts of public authorities.
Empowering Citizens and Ensuring Accountability
Justice Minallah emphasized the profound significance of this constitutional right, highlighting its potential to empower citizens to hold public authorities accountable and curb the abuse of public power.
By enforcing this right, citizens can actively participate in preventing constitutional violations and power abuse. In cases of constitutional abrogation, subversion, or holding the Constitution in abeyance, courts have the authority to design remedies, including compensatory and exemplary damages.
Addressing the Current Situation
In light of Pakistan’s current situation, where unelected caretakers govern citizens in violation of the Constitution, Justice Minallah pointed out that public authorities, including the President, Governors, and the Election Commission, have failed in their constitutional duties.
This failure makes them liable for actions against their wrongful acts. Justice Minallah emphasized the courts’ duty to end impunity for constitutional violations and ensure the timely and lawful resolution of claims against public authorities.
Justice Athar Minallah’s emphasis on Article 212 of the Constitution serves as a reminder of citizens’ constitutional rights to seek compensation for wrongful acts committed by public officials.
This constitutional provision represents a powerful tool for holding public authorities accountable, empowering citizens and safeguarding constitutional rights.
As Pakistan’s legal system continues to evolve, effectively enforcing this right can contribute significantly to ensuring the rule of law and upholding the principles of justice and accountability.