Talha Mansoor reports about a judicial meeting
The unraveling of Pakistan’s polity is not only limited to politics only as it is equally affecting other aspects of the society and the judiciary is no exception as was witnessed by the acrimonious proceedings of the recent judicial meeting regarding appointments to the vacant positions of the superior judiciary.
After a meeting stretching over three and a half hours, the Judicial Com¬mission of Pakistan (JCP) una¬nimously approved the recommendation to elevate Islam¬abad High Court (IHC) Chief Justice Athar Minallah to the Supreme Court, gave a divided nod to two high court judges and dropped outright the suggestion regarding one candidate.
The proceedings were reported to be full of bitter comments not worthy of being reported here. Anyway, the meeting finally approved the candidature of Jus¬tice Shahid Waheed of the Lahore High Court and Jus¬tice Syed Hasan Azhar Rizvi of the Sindh High Court (SHC) with a majority of five to four.
Both were fourth on the seniority list of their respective courts — in a twist after two government representatives agreed to the proposal following earlier opposition to it. The name of Justice Muhammad Shafi Siddiqui of the SHC was dropped from any further consideration. Justice Qazi Faez Isa, Justice Sardar Tariq Masood, Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, and Pakistan Bar Cou¬ncil (PBC) representative Akh¬tar Hussain had opposed the nomination of the three judges to the apex court.
With Monday’s approval, the strength of the Supreme Court increases to 15 —two short to form a full court. However, CJP Bandial, Justice Ijazul Ahsan, retired Justice Sarmad Jalal Osmany, Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Ashtar Ausaf, and Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar supported the nominations.
Parliamentary Committee Of Judicial Meeting
The name of Justice Siddi¬qui — sixth in the seniority list of the SHC — was dropped from further consideration when during the meeting, retired Justice Osmany highlighted that Justice Aqeel Ahmed Abbasi — SHC’s third most senior judge — was more competent and his performance far ahead of the others.
The name of Justice Minallah was considered at the end of the meeting and approved unanimously. The recommendations will now be taken up by the Parliamentary Committee of Parliament within 14 days of the JCP approval. Most of the time during the heated discussion was consumed by debating why the same names had been proposed when the 28 July meeting of the commission had already disapproved them.
At one point, the AGP had to explain that he had suggested deferring the meeting on 28 July instead of clearly disapproving the candidatures. Just days before the meeting, Justice Isa through yet another letter had requested the CJP to withdraw the names of three junior judges, which had already been rejected by the JCP on 28 July.
In addition, the legal fraternity, including the PBC, Supreme Court Bar Association, and the Sindh Bar Council, had earlier raised concerns over reconsideration for elevation to the Supreme Court the names of the three junior judges, months after the JCP had rejected them, with the lawyers’ community vowing to challenge it even if it was approved by the commission.
Although the bar representatives had no objection to the IHC CJ’s nomination, they had expressed concerns over the nomination of other candidates. They had highlighted that these nominations, bypassing the seniority principle, would also demoralize other high court judges and adversely affect their work. Monday’s meeting also discussed the holding of a JCP meeting after formulating criteria for the appointment of superior court judges.
Rendering The Controversy
During the last meeting of the rules committee on 9 March, the CJP had expressed the desire for maintaining objectivity in the process of appointment of judges and stressed the need for setting out simple and straightforward criteria to make assessments, evaluations, and then selections of judges for appointment to the high courts and Supreme Court.
The PBC – the regulatory body of lawyers – had been against any fresh elevation to the superior courts before carrying out amendments and developing criteria in the Judicial Commission of Pakistan Rules 2010. Rendering the controversy acute Justice Qazi Faez Isa had earlier requested Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial to withdraw the names of the three junior judges who have been rejected by the Judicial Commission of Pakistan (JCP) in its last meeting.
The letter was written against the backdrop of Monday’s scheduled meeting of the commission to consider the nomination of Justice Shahid Waheed of Lahore High Court, Justice Syed Hasan Azhar Rizvi, and Justice Shafi Siddiqui of Sindh High Court, besides Islamabad High Court Chief Justice Athar Minallah, for their elevation to the apex court.
Referring to the recording of the last meeting of JCP on 28 July and then the release of its audio recording Justice Isa regretted that the chairman did not disclose to the members that the meeting was being secretly recorded and even did not take permission from JCP before releasing the audio. The Weekender