Members of the legal fraternity and government officials have expressed surprise at the CJP's unusual speech that was devoted in part to complaining about how the government's ‘displeasure’ over an adverse judgment from the top court manifested as a refusal to endorse his JCP picks.
The pointed remarks on the 'hot-button' issue have elicited mixed reactions.
Weighing in on the speech, the political oddsmakers believe that the 'devil is in the details', suggesting that the government may be in trouble. However, the opposition —mainly the PTI — has extolled the speech as "very significant".
The reactions come after the CJP Umar Ata Bandial, speaking at the opening ceremony of the new judicial year 2022-23, mentioned the July 26 apex court decision, which declared Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi as the chief minister of Punjab in the July 22 run-off poll, observing that the displeasure of the federal government on this decision became evident two days later at the JCP meeting on July 28.
The CJP said that “for the first time since JCP was constituted through the... 18th Amendment, the representatives of the federal government in the commission either deferred or chose not to support the candidates proposed by its chairman (CJP). As a result, the meeting had to be adjourned.”
“Nevertheless, it did surprise the court that during the hearing of the case the current and several past office-bearers of the Bar approached the bench with a request to constitute a full court on the urging of the leader of the political party that is also the principal member of the coalition in the federal government,” he recalled, adding it was done without any legal grounds.
In a thinly-veiled reference to the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan, the CJP also expressed surprise over a ‘partisan request’ for the formation of a full bench.
“The request was unexpected because the Bar was pleading a partisan political cause without even being a party to the case,” he said.
The chief justice's observations offered another glimpse into the persisting deadlock over the appointment of five SC Judges. Moreover, the remarks also reflected the CJP’s growing frustration over the failure to approve a single nominee for SC judge during his tenure.
The PTI has welcomed the chief justice's remarks against the government and the bar.
PTI leader Fawad Hussain took to Twitter to say that the CJP’s speech was “very significant” as it revealed the joint efforts of the government and lawyers to influence the judicial proceedings.
'Govt in trouble?'
A lawyer commenting on the implications of CJP's speech said that the government may find itself in trouble in the future.
However, a senior official questioned in which case except for the deputy speaker Assembly Qasim Suri's ruling, the PML-N-led government got relief during CJ Bandial's tenure. "Therefore we are not concerned about the implications of the chief justice's speech on pending matters,” he added.
The official said that the government representatives were ready to support if the chief justice could agree on a 'middle way' and included one or two senior high courts judges in the nominated list.
Currently, the three-judge special bench led by CJP Umar Ata Bandial is hearing Imran Khan's petition against recent amendments to National Accountability Ordinance NAO 2000. Likewise, both SCBA and the government want the majority bench led by CJP Bandial should review its judgment wherein it was held that defecting lawmakers' votes could not be counted under Article 63 A of the Constitution.
SCBA to give official response
A representative of the bar said that the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) will give its response to the CJP speech two days later.
However, one section within the bar is criticising its leadership for taking a soft stance toward the judiciary in their speeches, questioning why the PBC vice chairman did not respond to the chief justice's remarks immediately.
Meanwhile, PBC representative Syed Amjad Shah expressed surprise over the chief justice’s remarks and said that they as representatives of the bar always stood on the right side of history.
The development comes amid the talks that the bar has not remained neutral in politics since March 2019.
However, it is a fact that lawyers always stood with any movement against the role of establishment as same was witnessed in Justice Isa's case wherein the bar unanimously opposed the PTI-led government's move against removal.
Interestingly, CJP Bandial was heading the full court in Justice Isa's case. He was among minority judges who had rejected Justice Isa and bars review petitions against his judgment wherein SC family judge matter was referred to the FBR for inquiry.
The incumbent Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar is one of the main leaders of the Independent Lawyers Group which is in majority in the superior bars.
Presently, the bar and the government representatives in JCP are on the same page regarding judges’ appointments.
On the other hand, judicial members of the JCP are not on the same page regarding the elevation of high court judges to the SC. There is a severe trust deficit between them.
However, senior lawyers believe that the chief justice should have avoided expressing his grievances at a time when reports indicate that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif is planning to invest in a narrative against a certain section of the judiciary which ousted him and his daughter Maryam Nawaz "without solid grounds".
Similarly, they say that appointment of SC judges by majority votes of the Judicial Commission of Pakistan will never strengthen the institution rather it will become a source of further division.
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