ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly Standing Committee on Law and Justice on Tuesday approved the Islamabad High Court (Amendment) Bill, 2018, aimed at increasing the number of judges in the court. The bill was approved by a majority despite objections.
According to the Statement of Objects and Reasons of the bill, the existing sanctioned strength of Judges of Islamabad High Court (IHC) is six plus one chief justice. As intimated by the IHC, the present strength of judges compared to number of pending cases is not sufficient, besides the institution of fresh cases which is increasing every year.
Therefore, it argued, it is necessary to increase the strength of the judges of the IHC from seven to 10 including the Chief justice to overcome the difficulties of litigant public for early disposal of long pending cases.
The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz was divided on the issue, with its lawmakers voting for and against the bill, while the PPP and JUI submitted a note of dissent.
PML-N’s Rana Sanaullah and Saad Rafique voted against the bill, while Bashir Mehmood voted in favour. The committee chairman called for the unanimous passage of the bill, but Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam’s Aliya Kamran said that she will file a note of dissent, as did Pakistan People’s Party lawmaker Nafisa Shah. The members also called for an increase in the number of judges of provincial high courts, once judges were appointed to the three vacant spots of the IHC.
In the meeting held under the chairmanship of Member of National Assembly (MNA) Riaz Fatyana, Law Minister Farogh Naseem remarked that a judicial commission had called for an increase in the number of IHC judges. At this, Aliya Kamran remarked that the number of judges of provincial courts must also be increased.
Member Kishwer Zehra said that merit must be given paramount importance in the appointment of judges. PML-N’s Khwaja Saad Rafique inquired about the number of cases pending with the court. The secretary of the law ministry said that letters have been written to provincial courts.
Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) Vice Chairman Kamran Murtaza said that judges weren’t appointed to the IHC as the previous chief justice, Anwar Kasi, hailed from Balochistan, and it was a ploy to deprive that province. He claimed that the federal law minister and ministry secretary were aware of the matter.
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The committee rejected a bill moved by committee member Ramesh Kumar, pertaining to the construction of a woman’s university for a population of 500,000. The committee also deferred a bill pertaining to minority rights, moved by Naveed Jeeva. It was deferred for re-consideration with the direction to the ministry to seek report and data from the National Database and Registration Authority as well as from the Statistic Division to proceed further in the matter. The law minister left the meeting while the bill was under discussion, upon which Aliya Kamran and Nafisa Shah lodged a protest.
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