CJP urged to form Full Court

ISLAMABAD The Supreme Court Wednesday referred the 18th Amendment case to Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhary for constituting a full bench to hear this matter and issued notices to Attorney General and the Federation of Pakistan. A five-member bench headed by Justice Nasirul Mulk and comprised Justice Raja Fayyaz Ahmed, Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja, Justice Rahmat Hussain Jafferi, and Justice Tariq Parvez was hearing identical constitutional petitions against the 18th Amendment. Akram Sheikh, senior advocate of Supreme Court, starting the arguments before the apex court, said the appointment of judges is linked with the independence of the judiciary. He cited the cases of Meher Ali vs Federation of Pakistan and Al-Jihad Trust for the independence of judiciary. He argued against the Judicial Commission, and called for immediate annulment of the Article 175-A, and termed it a law against the freedom of judiciary. Akram Sheikh Advocate said the formation of the Judicial Commission under the 18th Amendment has been against the fundamental structure of the Constitution and freedom of the judiciary. He said in Islamic history the judiciary was considered a highly respectable institution, adding that there was hardly any country in the world, which had undermined judiciary as the government trying it through Article 175-A. Justice Nasirul Mulk asked him whether he was challenging the whole Article 175-A or some of it provisions. Akram Sheikh replied in positive and said he wanted that the court struck it down as it had eroded the tricotomy of powers. Justice Rehmat Hussain Jaffrey remarked that the Federal Law Minister does have a role in the appointment of judges as being the head of the Ministry of Law and Justice. Akram Sheikh said he does that while sitting in his office and not as member of the judicial commission. Hamid Khan, counsel for SCBA and LHCBA, said Article 175-A is in conflict with Articles 2-A and 68 as both these articles talk about the separation of judiciary from legislature. Justice Jawad S. Khawaja asked why the whole process of amending the constitution was kept secret? Hamid Khan informed that in the first meeting, held on 18th August 2009, the chairman of Constitutional Reform Committee had decided that committee proceedings will be held in-camera and no press release will be issued. He said on 31st March 2010 the report was submitted in the parliament and was passed in hurry. He said there was no transparency in the CRC meetings. President Pakistan Muslim League-Zia and former Federal Minister Ijaz-ul-Haq have challenged the various clauses of the 18th Amendment. He has prayed that the amendments made through 18th Amendment in Articles 1(2)(a), 17, 51(6) (d)&(e) read with Articles 106(3)(c), 63 (g) &(h), 63-A and 175-A may kindly be declared as illegal, unconstitutional. Justice Nasirul Mulk said the large bench may also hear the Ejazul petition, in which he has raised other points. The bench after hearing arguments of lawyers referred the case to chief justice and adjourned it for two weeks.

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