Syed Kemal Shah Bokhary
|Non-Permanent Judge of the Court of Final Appeal|
|Permanent Judge of the Court of Final Appeal|
|Justice of Appeal of the Court of Appeal of the Supreme Court of Hong Kong|
|Judge of the High Court of Justice of the Supreme Court of Hong Kong|
|Sir David Wilson|
|Justice of the Peace|
|Born||25 October 1947|
|Relations||Amina Mariam Bokhary (niece)|
Syed Kemal Shah Bokhary, GBM, JP (Urdu: ? , Chinese: ; Cantonese Yale: B?au Jig?m; born 25 October 1947) is a judge in Hong Kong. He was one of three Permanent Judges of Hong Kong's Court of Final Appeal from its inception in 1997 until he reached the mandatory retirement age of 65 in October 2012; afterwards, he remained on the bench as a non-permanent judge.
Bokhary's father is Daoud Bokhary, a native of the North-West Frontier Province in the British Raj (now Pakistan) who came to Hong Kong with the British Indian Army after the Japanese occupation. His mother's family had been in Hong Kong since the 19th century. Bokhary himself was born in Kowloon, Hong Kong in 1947. He received his early education in the King George V School, Hong Kong and his legal education in London. Bokhary is married to former High Court judge Verina Saeeda Bokhary, with whom he has three daughters.
Bokhary was called to the English Bar in 1970 and to the Hong Kong Bar the following year. He went on to establish a successful legal practice in Hong Kong and was appointed Queen's Counsel in 1983. The following year, he also became a Justice of the Peace. In 1989, he was appointed a Judge of the High Court. He came to wide public attention in early 1993 for presiding over an inquest into the New Year's Eve stampede at Lan Kwai Fong, in which 21 people were killed. He was promoted to the Court of Appeal later that year. In 1997, upon the handover of Hong Kong from Britain to the People's Republic of China, Bokhary was appointed a Permanent Judge of the Court of Final Appeal of Hong Kong. He was known for his sense of humour and his talkativeness in court. In 2001, Bokhary was elected a bencher of London's Middle Temple.
Out of the permanent judges of the Court of Final Appeal, Bokhary holds the record for the number of dissenting opinions he has written. He is also described as the "most hard-working" judge; during his thirteen years of tenure, he heard 95% (299) of the 313 cases which came before the Court of Final Appeal, a higher proportion than his colleagues. His frequent dissents were thought by some to be "intellectually superior" to opinions written by other members of the bench, and he was nicknamed the "conscience of the court" due to his tendency to rule in accordance with his sense of justice rather than established principles; he has also been described as the "Lord Denning of Hong Kong" by Martin Lee SC.
Bokhary retired from his position as Permanent Judge on 24 October 2012 upon reaching the retirement age of 65. In remarks upon the occasion, he warned of "a storm of unprecedented ferocity" which threatened the judicial autonomy of Hong Kong. Commenting on the decision not to extend his retirement age, Bokhary suggested that, "If you were asking if I believe that the reason why [my retirement age was not] extended is because of my liberal judgements, then I would tell you that I do believe that." Nevertheless, reflecting on his time on the bench, Bokhary stated that, although opinions between the justices differed on occasion, he never encountered anything less than a highly-cooperative attitude, both at the hearing and judgment-writing stages. He also insisted that Hong Kong judges would always independently apply the law, Beijing's power to interpret the Basic Law notwithstanding: "The very fact that there's an interpretation [from Beijing] shows you that the court is independent. Because if the courts are not independent, then they could just be told quietly behind the scenes what to do, and they would do it. But everybody knows that's not how it works in Hong Kong."
'My nationality is British. That does not make me any less a Hong Kong person,' the Hong Kong-born judge said. ... A British national, Bokhary disagreed with the suggestion that judges of the top court should be Chinese citizens or Hong Kong residents.