The controversy over the maximum age of provincial law officers remains unresolved as three provincial governments continue to have ‘overage’ advocates general.
Under Article 140 of the Constitution, only a person qualified to be a high court judge is eligible to become a provincial advocate general. The maximum age for high court judges is 62, according to the constitution, while three provincial governments, namely Punjab, Sindh and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), have appointed lawyers who are much older.
Recently, the Punjab government appointed a 74-year-old lawyer, Muhammad Hanif Khatana, as the top law officer of the province. Similarly, 75-year-old Fateh Muhammad Malik is the Sindh advocate general (AG). The age of K-P Advocate General Latif Yousufzai is also above 62.
Talking to The Express Tribune, senior lawyer Tariq Mahmood said this question had already been raised before the Supreme Court against Yaqoob Yousafzai’s appointment as Balochistan AG but the matter is still undecided.
Meanwhile, Muhammad Ramzan Chaudhry, the vice chairman of the Pakistan Bar Council, contended that prima facie, the appointment of the three law officers is a violation of Article 140. He urged the Supreme Court to decide this legal question regarding the maximum age of the provincial top law officers once and for all.
Chaudhry also criticised the Punjab government for not appointing an appropriate person as the top law officer of the province. “There are 70,000 lawyers in Punjab but the provincial government is appointing under -age and over-age advocates general.”
Earlier, former Additional Advocate General Mustafa Ramday performed his duty as Punjab’s acting AG for more than one year but he tendered his resignation because he was underage.
Separately, Supreme Court Bar Association president Kamran Murtaza, while talking to The Express Tribune, admits that there is a controversy over the maximum age for advocates general and the apex court should decide this issue permanently.
He also said that there are two points of view regarding the qualification of advocates general. “Firstly, there is no concept of the advocate general’s retirement age. A judge gets pension benefits after his retirement but such kind of perks and privileges are not awarded to an advocate general, therefore he can continue to work,” he explained.
Murtaza, however, says that according to an opposing point of view, a lawyer, who is above 62 years old, cannot hold office of advocate general. He said this issue emerged twice in the past but it could not be resolved by the apex court.
Another provincial law officer maintained that the appointment of the three ‘overage’ AGs is illegal. He cited the example of former Punjab AG Maqbool Malik who had resigned on the same grounds.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 24th, 2014.