ISLAMABAD: Three Sindh High Court (SHC) judges, who would be superseded after the possible elevation of Justice Munib Akhtar, had expressed their desire to remain at the high court, sources revealed to The Express Tribune.
The sources said that a meeting of the Judicial Commission of Pakistan (JCP) to consider the elevation of SHC judge had been rescheduled and would now be held on April 9. Earlier, it was scheduled for April 5.
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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, he will be in line to become the chief justice of Pakistan after the retirement of Justice Mansoor Ali Shah in 2027. Justice Akhtar is fourth on the seniority list of SHC judges.
The sources said that according to the agenda of the JCP meeting, shared with the concerned members, it was mentioned that before initiating the name of Justice Akhtar, Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar had contacted three senior SHC judges, namely Justice Ahmed Ali Sheikh, Justice Irfan Saadat Khan and Justice Aqeel Ahmed Abbasi.
“According to the agenda of the meeting, the three judges expressed a desire to continue work at the SHC. After consultation with these judges, the CJP has recommended the name of Justice Akhtar for elevation,” the sources added.
Pakistan Bar Council member Raheel Kamran Sheikh supported the CJP’s proposal to elevate the junior judge. He believes that the SC has to have the best judges in the country, regardless of when they were born or elevated to the bench, as long as the minimum qualifications prescribed by the Constitution in terms of age and experience are met.
“For that reason, all elevations to the SC should be based on considerations of juristic ability, integrity and performance as a judge in the High Court and the best among eligible judges should be elevated, regardless of the seniority. As long as there exists a consensus among the Judicial Commission on the credentials of a nominee judge, seniority should not matter because elevation to the SC is not a promotion but a direct appointment,” he added.
The PBC member says that the doctrine of legitimate expectations of the senior most judges was essentially adopted to safeguard the independence of the judiciary from manoeuvring by the executive limb of the state, but the same should not be considered relevant for appointments proposed through an independent Judicial Commission under Article 175-A of the Constitution. Further, relationships should be ignored altogether and must not be allowed to stand in the way of elevating the best nominee.
However, some lawyers, particularly those belonging to Sindh, are raising objections to the possible elevation for different reasons.
The Peshawar High Court Bar Association, the Peshawar District Bar Association and the K-P Bar Council on March 27 passed a resolution, wherein it is stated, “The lawyers’ community of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa expresses serious concern and strongly resents the treatment meted out to the honorable judges of Supreme Court belonging to the smaller provinces. In case the hearing of proceedings in a dead case against Justice Qazi Faez Isa of the Supreme Court is not immediately stopped, the lawyers’ community of K-P, after coordination with lawyers from all the provinces and all other lawyers’ bodies, will go to the streets.”
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Likewise, the Karachi Bar Association on Wednesday also passed a similar resolution. It is also learnt that the same bar is going to organise a convention of all lawyers’ representatives next month to consider these matters.
Legal experts are urging the CJP to visit small provinces’ registries, especially Quetta and Peshawar.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 29th, 2018.
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