LHC may get its first female CJ

JCP deliberates on elevation of Justice Aalia Neelum as next chief justice

Hasnaat Malik June 09, 2024
Justice Aalia Neelum. PHOTO: FILE


The Judicial Commission of Pakistan (JCP) has de-liberated on the elevation of Justice Aalia Neelum as the next chief justice of the Lahore High Court (LHC).

Justice Shujaat Ali Khan is the senior puisne judge in the LHC, while Justice Neelum is third in the se-niority list of the LHC after the elevation of incumbent LHC CJ Malik Shahzad Ahmad Khan and Justice Shahid Bilal Hassan to the Supreme Court.

Although it is not a constitutional requirement to appoint the senior puisne judge of a high court as the next chief justice, all senior puisne judges have been appointed as the CJs since the change of procedure in the appointment of supe-rior courts judges through the 18th Constitution Amendment in 2010.

However, prior to the amendment, some senior puisne judges had been su-perseded by junior judges. One such instance was that of Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, who was not the se-nior puisne judge but was elevated to the position of the Peshawar High Court (PHC) CJ.

Sources revealed to The Express Tribune that there was a detailed informal discussion among the JCP members on Friday about the appointment of the next LHC CJ after the eleva-tion of incumbent CJ Malik Shahzad Ahmad Khan.

During the meeting, Justice Yahya Afridi sug-gested that once any high court judge is ignored for elevation to the SC despite his seniority, he must not be considered for his ap-pointment as an SC judge next time.

Two JCP members con-firmed to The Express Tribune that the JCP unani-mously agreed that the
two senior-most judges of the LHC—Justice Shujaat Ali Khan and Justice Ali Baqar Najafi—should not be considered for elevation as the high court's CJ due to certain reasons.

They said the commission informally decided to ap-point Justice Aalia Neelum as the next LHC CJ. Justice Shujaat Ali Khan may take oath as the acting LHC chief justice for some time.

However, a JCP meet-ing will be summoned soon to nominate the new LHC chief justice. Both the government rep-resentatives—the attorney general for Pakistan and the law minister—agreed on the consideration of Justice Neelum as the new LHC CJ.

However, according to some sources, one section within the government is still campaigning for the elevation of Justice Najafi as the next LHC chief justice. Justice Shujaat Ali Khan will retire on April 26, 2026, while Justice Najafi is retiring on September 14, 2025.

Justice Aalia Neelum will serve until November 11, 2028. If elevated, Justice Neelum will be the first female chief justice of the LHC. She is known as a judge with ex-pertise in criminal laws.


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