LAHORE – The Lahore High Court Bar Association, through a resolution on Wednesday, accused the Judicial Commission of Pakistan of making appointments of judges “beyond the merit and on favouritism.” The bar members also expressed their serious concerns over the functioning of the Commission.
The JCP, it may be recalled here, had on March 10 approved the names of Abdus Sami Khan, Ibadur Rehman Lodhi, Shahid Waheed, Shujat Ali Khan and Baqqir Ali Najfi as Additional Judges of the Lahore High Court for a period of one year. It was presided by Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhamamd Chaudhary.
Advocate S.N. Khawar Khan, the mover of the resolution, faced criticism and hooting while reading it out. Senior lawyers, including M Azhar Siddque, chanted slogans against the resolution and termed it “a PPP policy”. They were of the view that someone else had given Khan the resolution in order to criticise the JCP.
However, the resolution stated that the JCP did not pay any heed to the lawyers’ demands while making the fresh appointments of judges. “The JCP has adopted an undignified process in the recent appointments [of LHC judges] and has not observed merit,” it further stated. The number of judges recommended for the appointments is too small as compared to the vacancies available, it added.
“A large number of competent lawyers have been dropped from the initial list, simply because of personal discomfort of the Commission members. Candidates with barely any standing at the bar but with strong links with sitting judges have been recommended for elevation,” the resolution further read. “One of the recommended judge was enrolled in the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan only a week ago and out of turn at the request of the judge member of the enrolment committee of the Pakistan Bar Council. The individual runs the chamber of a chief justice of another province,” the resolution added.
It also stated that another recommended judge was the associate of a sitting member of the JCP and continued to run his chamber. Another lawyer recommended for elevation was rewarded simply because he was promised elevation to the bench for changing his loyalties during the election of the SCBA. Another person who is recommended is not even enrolled in the SCBA. His practice is very limited and that too while appearing for the provincial government, the resolution further revealed.
It said that the legal fraternity were disturbed that the JC was manipulating appointments of judges to pack the courts with friends and associates who claim loyalties for members of the judiciary. The resolution demanded that the bar councils call an emergent meeting and chalk out a plan for action so that transparent and merit based appointments to superior judiciary are made. The parliamentary committee must immediately elect its chair and call a meeting to review these recent recommendations for appointments and undo those that were based on favouritism.
“The rules framed by the JCP are arbitrary and should be reformed. All members of the JC must be allowed to make recommendations for elevation instead of leaving it to the exclusive domain of the chief justices. 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,” the resolution concluded.
LHCBA President Shahram Sarwar also put the demand for fulfilling the number of judges at the Lahore High Court which was also carried by the general house. However, when one member of the bar demanded to put before the house that no relative of a judge could be practiced in the city where that judge functioned, the president adjourned the proceeding of the house and avoided placing it as resolution.
Former SCBA president Asma Jahangir and Pakistan Bar Council member Azam Nazir Tarar spoke in favour of the resolution while LBA President Ch Zulfiqar Ali, former LBA President Rana Zia Abdul Rehman and Judicial Activism Panel president spoke against it. Tarar and Ms Jahangir demanded the bars to withdraw their representatives from the JCP in case their demands were not fulfilled.