ISLAMABAD: On Friday, Justice Mussarat Hilali was sworn in as the second female judge of the Supreme Court (SC) of Pakistan.
Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial administered the oath to Justice Hilali, who had previously held the position of chief justice at the Peshawar High Court (PHC). The swearing-in ceremony took place at the ceremonial hall of the SC.
The notable gathering was adorned with the esteemed presence of prominent personalities, such as Attorney General for Pakistan Mansoor Usman Awan, distinguished senior judges, and eminent lawyers. The solemn ceremony of taking the oath represented a significant stride towards fostering gender diversity within the highest court of the nation.
With Justice Hilali’s elevation, the number of judges in the top court has now reached 16, out of a total sanctioned strength of 17. This development signifies the ongoing efforts to ensure a balanced representation on the bench.
President Dr Arif Alvi, on Wednesday, officially appointed Justice Hilali as an apex court judge. This decision followed the unanimous approval granted by the Judicial Commission of Pakistan (JCP) on June 14, and the subsequent endorsement by the Parliamentary Committee on Judges’ Appointments. These formal procedures paved the way for the elevation of the distinguished PHC CJ to the apex court.
Justice Ayesha Malik had previously made history in January last year by becoming the first-ever female judge to ascend to the apex court. The addition of Justice Hilali further reinforces the country’s commitment to inclusivity and the advancement of women in the legal profession.
Justice Hilali’s Historic Appointment
Justice Hilali, renowned for her remarkable achievements, occupies a prominent position in Pakistan’s legal domain. She etched her name in history by becoming the first woman to step into the esteemed role of Chief Justice of the PHC, succeeding Justice Qaiser Rashid Khan upon his retirement on April 1. In addition to this groundbreaking feat, her appointment signifies another milestone as the second female judge to hold the prestigious position of Chief Justice of a high court in Pakistan. Justice Tahira Safdar had previously served as the first female Chief Justice of the Balochistan High Court from September 2018 to October 2019.
A Distinguished Legal Career
Born on August 8, 1961, in Peshawar, Justice Hilali obtained her law degree from Khyber Law College, University of Peshawar. She began her legal career as an advocate of district courts in 1983, eventually becoming an advocate of the high court in 1988 and the Supreme Court in 2006.
Throughout her career, Justice Hilali has achieved numerous accolades. Not only has she been recognized as a civil society activist and prominent member of the bar, but her commitment to human rights advocacy has been widely acknowledged. She held positions of leadership within the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, serving as an office-bearer and heading its KP chapter on various occasions.
Active Role in Legal Community
Within the legal community, Justice Hilali played an active role in the PHC Bar Association, becoming its first female secretary, vice president, and general secretary. She was elected twice as an executive member of the Supreme Court Bar Association for the terms of 2007-8 and 2008-9.
Dedication to Public Service
Justice Hilali’s service to the government includes her role as the first female additional advocate general from November 2001 to March 2004, as well as her appointment as the chairperson of the KP Environmental Protection Tribunal. In 2010, she became the first provincial ombudsperson under the Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act 2010.
Rise to the Bench and Remarkable Journey
Her journey to the bench began on March 26, 2013, when she was appointed as an additional judge. Her outstanding performance led to her confirmation as a judge of the high court on March 13, 2014.
Courageous Stand for Justice
Notably, Justice Hilali played a pivotal role in the 2007 Lawyers’ Movement, which emerged in response to a reference filed against then-Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry. Despite facing adversity, she fearlessly stood alongside her male colleagues during the movement. Her dedication to justice was evident when her residence was raided by the police, resulting in a fractured leg as they attempted to arrest her.
Admiration and Respect for Justice Hilali
Justice Hilali’s remarkable journey and unwavering commitment to the legal profession have earned her widespread admiration and respect.