ISLAMABAD - The ruling coalition and the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) on Monday in a rare show of bipartisan consensus agreed in the Senate to move forward on a constitution amendment bill seeking to limit powers of the Judicial Commission of Pakistan (JCP) in appointment of judges of the superior courts and make powerful the parliamentary committee in the process.

Former Chairman Senate and Pakistan People’s Party Senator Farooq H Naek was the mover of the Constitution (Amendment) Bill, which was referred to the Senate standing Committee on Law and Justice by Chairman Senate Muhammad Sadiq Sanjrani. The chair also directed that the report on the bill should be submitted to the house within 15 days.

The bill seeks amendment in Article 142 as well as substitution of Article 175-A of the Constitution. The bill has landed in the upper house of parliament at a time when there is an on-going controversy on the elevation of high court judges to the Supreme Court with the JCP having to postpone its meeting abruptly after some of its members opposed some of the nominees to be elevated to the apex court. Senator Naek explaining the salient features of the bill said the present composition of JCP for appointment of SC judges was heavily tilted in judges’ favour. He said that the JCP presently comprises Chief Justice of Pakistan, four judges of the SC, a retired apex court judge, law minister, attorney general and a senior advocate. He said that amendment proposes to exclude one of the four sitting judges to make it a seven member panel. Likewise, the composition of the Commission for appointment of high court judges has also been proposed to be changed to reduce its total strength from 13 to 11. He added that the Constitution was silent on the criterion of the advocates to be picked for judicial appointments. Naek said the bill suggests an initiation committee to propose names within 60 days after a vacancy occurs. The bill also proposes to provide for appointment of the most senior judge of the high court as chief justice on the pattern of Supreme Court.

PTI lawmaker in Senate lashes out at CEC, ECP | Says Election Commission of Pakistan lost its credibility

Former chairman Senate regretted that the parliamentary committee on appointment of judges had become a mere rubber stamp in the absence of its defined powers. He said that an amendment has been proposed in the bill, which seeks that the parliamentary committee on receipt of a nomination from the commission shall examine credentials, capability, moral and financial integrity of the nominee. He said the eight-member parliamentary panel would be able to reject a nomination by three-fourth of its total membership. He also proposed a committee of retired Supreme Court judges to monitor the performance of high court judges. On this, PTI Senator Azam Khan Swati endorsed the bill saying that amendments have been proposed by Naek to strengthen the structure of judiciary. He said that the bill should be moved in a bipartisan spirit. “There is no example in the world of the way the judges are inducted in Pakistan,” he said, adding that it was strange that the judges are appointed by the judges themselves. PTI lawmaker said that there was a need for a bipartisan revisit of the existing procedure to appoint judges of superior courts. He urged the need to make the parliamentary committee powerful and to change its composition “We are with them (government) and this effort would be helpful for Pakistan’s judiciary and the system.” Earlier, Senator Swati also lashed out at Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja and the ECP saying that the commission has lost its credibility, and dignity. “This man planted by the imported govt is not acceptable to us”, he said while referring to the CEC.