Cases are piling up and litigants are suffering due to shortage of judges in the top court of Gilgit-Baltistan. With the expiration of contracts of two judges last month, only one judge is left in the three-member Supreme Appellate Court (SAC).
The positions fell vacant on May 26 when the contracts of Justice Syed Jafer Shah and Justice Mohammad Yaqoob expired after they completed their three-year term.
Dubbed as Gilgit-Baltistan’s apex court, SAC is run by three judges including a chief judge, all of whom are hired on three-year contracts. Justice Rana Arshad, who replaced Justice Mohammad Nawaz Abbasi as chief judge after the latter’s contract expired last year, is now looking after the SAC.
According to local lawyers, the SAC is “virtually dysfunctional” since the retirement of the two judges as the chief judge cannot hear all the cases singlehandedly.
“Under the provision of Article 60  of the Gilgit-Baltistan Governance Order 2009, an appeal to SAC shall be heard by a bench consisting of not less than two judges to be constituted or reconstituted by the chief judge,” said a lawyer, adding that the delay has queued over 100 cases in the court.
“There is still no clue as to who is going to fill the two vacant posts,” said an official in the governor secretariat, the office that recommends names for the judges to the Prime Minister of Pakistan for appointment. He said that last month, the G-B law department prepared a summary in light of a resolution passed by the G-B Legislative Assembly seeking regularisation of services of the judges as done by the AJK government. However the proposal did not materialise, he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 29th, 2012.
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