Litigants in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) are suffering due to the shortage of judges in the High Court and Shariat Court.
In a letter to the President Sardar Muhammad Yaqoob Khan, the AJK High Court Chief Justice Ghulam Mustafa Mughal has underscored the need to increase the number of judges in the High Court and Shariat Court.
He reasoned that under section 43 of the AJK Interim Constitution 1974, the High Court should comprise a chief justice and four judges, while additional judges may be appointed depending upon the workload.
At present, the high court has one chief justice and two judges – Chief Justice Mughal, Justice Chaudhry Munir Hussain and Justice Tabbasam Aftab Alvi.
Similarly, the Shariat Court should have four judges but only two are appointed, namely Justice Iftikhar Hussain Butt and Justice Hussain Mazhar Kaleem.
At present, there are 9,335 cases pending with the High Court and 1,309 cases with the Shariat Court.
Moreover, the posts of two judges in the high court are lying vacant since the appointees – Muhammad Younis Tahir and Raja Rafiullah Sultani – were removed last year. The judges were removed on grounds that their appointments were made without valid consultation by the then Jammu and Kashmir Council President, Shoukat Aziz, who was also the prime minister of Pakistan at the time. The two judges were appointed in January 2007 by former president Parvez Musharraf.
Chief Justice Mughal further noted that the Gilgit-Baltistan High Court, where at least 640 cases are pending, has a chief justice and three other judges appointed. The Balochistan High Court, where over 5,229 cases are pending, has a chief justice and eleven other judges appointed.
Justice Mughal noted that in the Shariat Court there are least 281 murder appeals pending due to the lack of judges. He added that as per the Criminal Procedure Code, a murder appeal must be disposed off by division benches, which have not been constituted due to the shortage of judges
He said that given the high number of pending cases in AJK courts and their circuit benches, it is “inevitable to raise the number of judges to clear the backlog”.
He proposed appointment of two new judges in the Shariat Court and two new permanent positions for Mirpur, Rawalakot, and Kotli circuit benches. He noted that three new judges should be appointed in the High Court. He added that the new High Court judges could be rotated to hear the divisional and full-bench cases.
Talking to The Express Tribune, AJK High Court Justice (Retd) Abdul Majeed Mallick, said that to ensure speedy and inexpensive justice to the people, it is imperative to fill all vacant posts of judges in AJK courts.
His stance was endorsed by Mirpur District Bar Association’s former president, Advocate Kamran Shareef.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 13th, 2012.