SC may get its second female judge

PHC Chief Justice Musarrat Hilali may get elevated to apex court soon

Hasnaat Malik June 11, 2023
Justice Musarrat Hilali. PHOTO: APP


Another female judge is being elevated to the Supreme Court as Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial has proposed the name of Peshawar High Court (PHC) Chief Justice Musarrat Hilali for appointment to the apex court.

According to sources, the chief justice summoned a meeting of the Judicial Commission of Pakistan (JCP) on June 14 to consider the nomination of Justice Hilali as a SC judge.

On June 7, the commission members informally discussed the issue of filing two apex court posts lying vacant for the last several months. After a heated argument with some JCP members, the chief justice agreed to summon a JCP session soon.

It is expected that Justice Bandial would recommend the name of Justice Hilali for elevation to the top court.

PHC Chief Justice Musarrat Hilali is retiring in August. In case of her elevation, she will serve in the SC for next three years. In January last year, the SC got its first female judge after the JCP elevated Lahore High Court’s (LHC) Justice Ayesha Malik to the SC.

Last month, SC Senior Puisne Judge Qazi Faez Isa, who is also a member of the JCP, wrote a letter to all members of the body proposing the elevation of the PHC chief justice, Musarrat Hilali, and the Sindh High Court (SHC) chief justice, Ahmed Ali Sheikh, to the Supreme Court.

The letter said two judicial positions in the SC had been lying vacant for a combined period of about nineteen months. Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel retired on July 13, 2022 while Justice Sajjad Ali Shah retired August 13, 2022.

"Cognisant of my constitutional duty, I would like to propose for your kind consideration to appoint Justice Ahmed Ali M Shaikh and Justice Musarrat Hilali as judges of the Supreme

It said the people of Sindh were dismayed when their chief justice was not appointed to the Supreme Court and the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) remained concerned that there is only one judge from their province in the Supreme Court.

“The Constitution mandates equality of citizens and forbids discrimination on the basis of sex and it also stipulates that there should be no discrimination on the ground of race, residence and place of birth," says the letter written by Justice Isa.

Legal opinion

Advocate Nida Usman Chaudhary, who is founder of the Women in Law Initiative Pakistan, said Justice Musarrat Hilali has the distinguished honour of being a trailblazer throughout her legal career and her judicial career is full of many firsts.

Sharing her profile, Nida said Justice Hilali was appointed to the PHC as an additional judge on March 26, 2013. She became a permanent judge of the PHC on March 13, 2014.

Before her appointment as a judge, she had the honour of being the first woman to be elected as the secretary of the Peshawar High Court Bar Association (PHCBA) from 1988-1989. She was twice elected as the PHCBA vice president from 1992 to 1994 and again as its general secretary from 1997-1998.

She was the first woman twice elected as an executive member of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) from 2007-2008 and 2008-2009. She was also the first female additional advocate general (AAG) of the K-P from November 2001 to March 2004.

She was the first chairperson of the K-P environmental tribunal in 2009 and the first federal ombudsperson in Pakistan for harassment against women at the workplace. She was also the first female additional advocate general in the country.

She was the first female lawyer in the K-P to become a judge of PHC without first serving at district judiciary. Just recently, she was appointed as the first female chief justice of the PHC.

"The news that she is now considered for appointment as a judge of the SC is, therefore, very welcome as her vast and diverse experience will enrich the jurisprudence emerging from the apex court.

“Furthermore, not only will she be another female judge in the highest judicial forum but also someone whose presence will give additional representation to the K-P as well.

“If she is not appointed now, she will retire in August 2023 after which if seniority is strictly applied, the K-P will have no representation in the SC for the next 8 years at least—till 2031.

“So her appointment now is very important from the perspective of fair representation in the justice sector for the K-P as well as for women," said Nida Usman Chaudhry.


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