JCP to decide on new LHC CJ, SC justice

Justices Qasim Khan, Mazahar Naqvi considered favourites for the two spots

Hasnaat Malik January 27, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The Judicial Commission of Pakistan (JCP) is to meet next month to decide on a new Lahore High Court (LHC) chief justice as incumbent Chief Justice Mamoon Rashid Sheikh is set to retire on March 18.

The retirement of former chief justice Asif Saeed Khosa has created a vacancy on the apex court. Who will now be elevated to the position of the nation’s top judge? Bar rooms are already abuzz with speculation. But the new chief justice faces a daunting task – for more than one reason.

Punjab judicial sources have revealed to The Express Tribune that senior judge Justice Muhammad Qasim Khan was being considered for appointment as the new LHC CJ. Likewise, LHC judge Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi is to be considered for elevation to the apex court. There is, however, no official confirmation of this. The JCP Secretariat has also yet to issue an agenda for a Commission meeting in this regard. The Secretariat generally issues the agenda 14 days prior to a meeting.

Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) representatives have confirmed, however, that serious consideration was being given to Justice Muhammad Qasim Khan for appointment as the new LHC CJ as well as the elevation of Justice Naqvi to the apex court.

Justice Naqvi is the third most senior LHC judge. If he continues as LHC judge, he will become high court chief justice on July 5 next year (2021) for 13 months.  In case of elevation, he will work as Supreme Court (SC) judge until August 31, 2025.  He had also authored the judgment wherein the Special Court that had convicted Pervez Musharraf had been declared unconstitutional.

Two former chief justices – Mian Saqib Nisar and Asif Saeed Khosa – during their respective tenures, had not adhered to the principle of seniority while elevating judges to the apex court. Three junior judges – Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Qazi Amin Ahmad and Justice Muhammad Amin Uddin Khan – had been elevated on the basis of “competency and reputation”.

However, The Express Tribune has learnt in background interviews that senior high court judges as well as superior bars, particularly the Lahore and Karachi high court bars, are not happy with the elevation of junior judges to the SC on the basis of competency.

In a letter written to former JCP chairman Asif Saeed Khosa, the Parliamentary Committee on the Appointment of Judges has called for giving the smaller provinces their due share in apex court appointments in order to alleviate a sense of deprivation among them.

The committee, in its letter through JCP Secretary Arbab Arif, notes that Pakistan is a federation that consists of four provinces and the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) and that all the federating units have high courts, adding that the Supreme Court of Pakistan has always had judges from every province which is a reflection of [a] united federation.

“At this point in time, we observe that Punjab has been given a good quota and Sindh appears to be over-represented, but Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and, in particular, Balochistan are under-represented in the Supreme Court. There is also no ICT judge on the august court”, reads the letter.

The committee also notes that, to ensure the federal complexion, judges should be appointed to the Supreme Court from KP, Balochistan or the ICT. “This is more so in reference to Balochistan which has only one judge on the Supreme Court … Under these circumstances, for the benefit of the federation and to keep a balance among the federating units, we consider that it would be appreciated that judges of KP, Balochistan or the ICT be appointed as judges of the Supreme Court to avoid a feeling of deprivation on the part of the smaller provinces.

“We have observed that there has only been one judge from Balochistan over the last five years and, over that period, two chief justices of the province have been overlooked without any reason and subsequently retired which tends to lead to a perception that the province, already deprived, is not being given its due importance in the Supreme Court”, says the letter.

The committee also asked the JCP secretary to place the point of view/submission before the chief justice of Pakistan/commission for consideration.

Currently, Punjab and Sindh each have six judges on the Supreme Court while KP has two. Interestingly, only one SC judge, Qazi Faez Isa, hails from Balochistan. He is also facing a presidential reference.

The JCP comprises five senior-most SC judges, the attorney general for Pakistan, the law minister and a bar representative.

After considering the nominations, the JCP will send its recommendation to the parliamentary committee for further consideration.


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