Junior SHC judge proposed for top court vacancy

CJP summons meeting of judicial commission on April 5 to consider elevation


Hasnaat Malik March 24, 2018
Sindh High Court. PHOTO: EXPRESS

ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar has proposed the elevation of Sindh High Court Justice Munib Akhtar as a judge of the Supreme Court.

Sources revealed to The Express Tribune that the CJP has summoned a meeting of the Judicial Commission of Pakistan (JCP) on April 5 to consider the elevation. One seat in the apex court fell vacant after the retirement of Justice Dost Muhammad Khan earlier this week. If Justice Akhtar is elevated to the apex court, then he will be in line to become chief justice of Pakistan after the retirement of Justice Mansoor Ali Shah in 2027.

Interestingly, Justice Akhtar is fourth on the seniority list of SHC judges. Although it is rare for judges lacking seniority to be elevated, there are notable exceptions, including two currently on the SC. Former CJP Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry had elevated incumbent CJP Mian Saqib Nisar and Justice Asif Saeed Khosa ahead of former Lahore High Court CJ Khawaja Muhammad Sharif.

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A senior lawyer said Justice Akhtar would be a good addition to the apex court as he is a “superb jurist and a first-rate choice”.

However, one section of lawyers, particularly those belonging to Sindh, have raised objections over the possible elevation, especially noting that three senior SHC judges, as well as the chief justices of other high courts, have not been considered.

Incidentally, no judge has been elevated from Balochistan since 2014, when Justice Qazi Faez Isa was appointed as an SC judge. He is currently the only judge from Balochistan. Similarly, two SC judges – Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan and Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel – are from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), but Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan is retiring in May. Meanwhile, eight judges including the CJP are from Punjab, and five are from Sindh.

In addition, since the establishment of the Islamabad High Court in 2010, only one judge – Justice Iqbal Hameedur Rehman – was elevated, and he subsequently resigned.

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One section of lawyers believe that the criteria of judges’ elevation should include competency and reputation, and seniority should not be the primary factor. The procedure for judges’ appointments is already under severe criticism from bar representatives. Several resolutions have been passed to amend the JCP’s rules 2010 to end the discretionary powers of the CJP in judges’ appointments.

The JCP comprises the five senior-most judges, the attorney general for Pakistan, the law minister, and a bar representative. After deliberating, the JCP sends its recommendation to the Parliamentary Committee on Judges Appointments for further consideration.

Justice Akhtar is a son-in-law of former law minister Khalid Anwar.

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