ISLAMABAD: The Judicial Commission of Pakistan (JCP) has approved the chief justice of Pakistan’s (CJP) proposal to elevate the Sindh High Court (SHC) judge Muneeb Akhtar as a judge of the Supreme Court, sources have revealed to The Express Tribune.
A meeting of the JCP, chaired by the CJP Mian Saqib Nisar, was held on Monday to consider elevation of Justice Akhtar, who is fourth on the seniority list of SHC judges.
Sources revealed that the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) representative Yousaf Laghari questioned elevation of a junior judge, especially noting that three senior SHC judges, as well as the chief justices of other high courts, have not been considered.
However, Laghari was told that it has not been first time that a junior judge is considered for elevation to the apex court. Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and CJP Nisar were also elevated in the apex court ahead of the Lahore High Court former CJ Khawaja Muhammad Sharif.
The SC in its judgment in Faqir Khokhar case has already maintained that appointment of the SC judge is a fresh appointment and a junior judge can also be elevated.
Sources revealed that Laghari also objected to amendments in JCP rules 2010. It has been decided that proposed amendments in the rules will be circulated to all members of the commission within week for further consideration.
After elevation of Justice Akhtar, the apex court will reach its full strength.
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’. Justice Akhtar is a son-in-law of former law minister Khalid Anwar.
One section of lawyers, particularly those belonging to Sindh, raised objections to ignoring three senior most judges. However, according to the record, three SHC judges, who would be superseded after the possible elevation of Justice Akhtar, had expressed their desire to remain at the high court.
It was mentioned in the JCP meeting agenda – shared with the concerned members – that before initiating name of Justice Akhtar, the CJP had contacted the three senior SHC judges – 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 working at the SHC. After consultation with these judges, the CJP recommended name of Justice Akhtar for elevation,” a source added.
A section of lawyers believes that the criteria of judges’ elevation should include competence and reputation, and seniority should not be the primary factor. 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.
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.
Two SC judges – Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan and Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel – are from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) but Justice Khan is retiring in the next month. Eight judges including the CJP are from Punjab, and five are from Sindh.
Since establishment of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) in 2010, only one judge – Justice Iqbal Hameedur Rehman – has been elevated from the federal capital to the SC. Justice Rehman has retired.
The JCP comprises 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.