Appointment of judges: PML-N in bid to empower MPs’ panel

Legal team set up to suggest constitutional amendments to Article 175A.


Abdul Manan December 23, 2013
Parliamentary Committee explained how to deal with the 25 high court judges who have been recruited on a political basis by the former chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. PHOTO: RIAZ AHMED/EXPRESS

LAHORE:


Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz (PML-N) has formally given the go-ahead to its legal team to review Article 175A of the Constitution to maintain ‘balance of power’ between the Judicial Commission (JC) and the Parliamentary Committee (PC) on appointment of judges.


Currently, the JC holds the reins on who is appointed but the PML-N’s team has suggested proposals to empower the PC and give it some teeth, officials told The Express Tribune.

Officials said PC has informed PML-N’s leadership of suggestions regarding the amendment and all the political parties in the PC are onboard.

The main proposals recommend how the impact of the Supreme Court’s judgment – that reduced the role of the PC to that of a post office – can be diluted and how the role of the law minister and his senior advocate can be given more importance in the nomination process of a high court judge.

They also called for strictly scrutinising the quota of sessions judges and explained how to deal with the 25 high court judges who have been recruited on a political basis by the former chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.

The PC also observed that Clause 12 of the Article 175A should be abolished which not only renders the committee powerless but also forces it to confirm the judges nominated by the JC in 14 days. Under the clause, if it fails to decide within 14 days, the nominations are deemed confirmed. It suggested that the PC should be given the authority to propose alternative names and also for the 14-day deadline to be repealed.

The briefing included the eight members of the PC who will finally approve the list of nominees, recommended by the JC. The members are PML-N’s senators Raja Zafarul Haq and Rafique Rajwana, Pakistan Peoples Party’s Farook H Naek, Awami National Party’s Haji Adeel, PML-N’s MNAs Arshad Leghari Chaudhry and Muhammad Bashir Virik, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s Shah Mehmood Qureshi and PPP MNA Syed Naveed Qamar.

The committee has agreed to rotationally appoint someone among them for each session as chairman of the committee.

In its last meeting, the newly constituted PC observed that the powers of the committee need to be reviewed, particularly the Supreme Court’s judgment in which it observed that the PC cannot scrutinise the recommendations made by the JC. It can only comment and discuss the reputation of the nominated judges that are to be confirmed, not their abilities, the court had ruled.

Sub-committee formed

To strengthen both the committee and the commission, a subcommittee has been formed consisting of Farooq Naek as convener, and Rafique Rajwana and Mehmood Bashir Virik as members. The sub-committee has convened twice.

The body resolved to study the formation and powers of the JCs and the PCs of other countries to propose amendments.

The sub-committee proposed strengthening the role of the law minister and changes in clauses 8 and 12 of Article 175A.

It has also decided to invite presidents of the Supreme Court Bar Association and the respective high court bar councils and associations, eminent jurists and lawyers separately for guidance and consultation, after which a final report with the proposed constitutional amendments and the formation rules would be submitted to the parent PC.

The requisite amendments and effective rules would be then presented before parliament.

One member of the sub-committee and a core member of PML-N’s legal team, Rafique  Rajwana, confirmed the developments but refused to share details of the proposals.

The better option

Constitutional law expert Salman Akram Raja said both the JC and PC are mandatory bodies and both should be empowered to finalise and nominate new judges for any vacant seat – the Chief Justice should not be the sole authority on judges’ appointments.

Meanwhile, constitutional expert Hamid Khan claimed that the Parliamentary Committee should be abolished as it is against the independence of judiciary and the trichotomy of powers. “Instead of strengthening PC, some of members from parliament should be inducted into the Judicial Commission to make it more balanced, if needed.”

Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah also said the JC is a one-way mechanism to appoint judges at the moment and its role need to be reviewed. The PC is currently powerless and it needs to be strengthened.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 24th, 2013.

COMMENTS (19)

Muneer | 7 years ago | Reply

1.The tenure of ex CJ Iftikhar Chaudhry has highlighted three facts:- a.The judicial powers given in the constitution are sufficient for any judge to give independent judgement if he has the will to do so. b.To give powers of appointment of judges only to judges is as counter productive as to give it only to the executive in Pakistan. c.The power to remove a judge of higher judiciary including that of CJ of SC or a high court to the Supreme Judicial Council is totally ineffective and useless. 2. In view of the above and experience of the past,following should be done:- a.There should be a balance of power among the parliament,executive and judiciary for appointment of the judges to higher judiciary. b.Removal of judges of the higher judiciary including that of CJs of SC/HC should be the sole prerogative of the Parliament to be done with two third majority in each case.   

Khan | 7 years ago | Reply

@SK: What accountability? No major cases resolved only headlines created during last 4 years.

There is only a thin pretense of accountability but NS wants to do away with that as well.

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