Judicial appointments: Lawyers accuse judges of nepotism, demand reforms

LHCBA says political affiliation should not be considered in appointment.


Our Correspondent March 14, 2012

LAHORE:


The Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA) on Wednesday accused the Judicial Commission of Pakistan of ignoring merit and the bar’s recommendations in the appointment of judges and demanded reforms to ensure greater fairness in the process.


“The JC has adopted an undignified process in their recent appointments and has not observed merit,” read a resolution carried by the general house of the LHCBA, amid a cacophony of slogans for and against it.

The resolution was moved by Advocate SN Khawar Khan, though many in the audience expressed doubt that he was the one who authored it, as he read it out haltingly. The house later also passed a resolution calling for all the judges’ vacancies in the LHC to be filled. “The JC did not pay any heed to the demands made by the representatives of the bar in their meeting held on March 5,” read the resolution. It said the bar’s recommendations had been ignored, while “candidates with barely any standing at the bar but with strong links with sitting judges have been recommended for elevation”.

The resolution suggested that several of the candidates recommended by the commission were not qualified. One of them had been registered with the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) only a week ago and out of turn at the request of the judicial member on the enrolment committee of the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC), the resolution said. “This individual runs the chamber of a chief justice of another province,” it said. “The LHCBA deplores such nepotism.”

The resolution said that another recommended candidates was the associate of a sitting member of the JC and continued to run his chamber. Another lawyer recommended for elevation was rewarded for switching loyalties during the SCBA elections. One would-be judge was not even enrolled in the SCBA. Yet another candidate had hardly practiced in the High Courts.

The resolution demanded that the bar councils call an emergency meeting to discuss how to ensure transparent and merit-based appointments. The parliamentary committee on judges should elect its chair and call a meeting to review the recent recommendations and undo those that lack merit, it said.

Reforms

The LHCBA demanded various reforms in the process of appointment and the functioning of the commission.

“All members of the JC must be allowed to make recommendations for elevation. The minutes of the JC should be circulated amongst the members of the JC. The judiciary should discourage rather than seek personal information from secret services about lawyers that are being considered for elevation,” said the resolution.

“The JC should make a clear policy that the political affiliation of an advocate will not affect his/her prospects for elevation. As a matter of principle, former chamber mates should not be given undue advantage over merit and judges should not use the temptation of elevation as a tool for interference and control of bar associations,” the resolution concluded.

Former SCBA president Asma Jahangir, PBC member Azam Tarar and Sarwar spoke in favour of the resolution, the former two suggesting that bars withdraw their representatives from the JC if their demands were not met.

Lahore Bar Association President Chaudhry Zulfiqar Ali and former LBA president Rana Zia Abdul Rehman opposed the resolution.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 15th, 2012.

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