LAHORE: Top Bars of the country, including the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) and Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), have expressed concerns at what they see as arbitrary functioning of the judicial commission for appointment of judges in superior courts, announcing its boycott until their plea is accepted.
They have been raising voice for allowing all the members of the judicial commission to propose names for appointment of judges. They also welcomed proposal of Asma Jahangir for the slot of caretaker prime minister and backed it.
The lawyers’ representatives at a press conference here on Tuesday demanded that proceedings of the judicial commission be made transparent and be not held in camera.
PBC Vice-Chairman Sayed Qalb-e-Hasan, Executive Committee Chairman Burhan Moazzam Malik, SCBA President Mian Israrul Haq, Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA) President Shahram Sarwar, Lahore Bar Association (LBA) President Numan Qureshi and members of PBC were present on the occasion.
Being the head of all the Bar associations and councils, PBC VC Qalb-e-Hasan read out a written statement, saying the PBC, SCBA, LHCBA, LBA and Punjab Bar Council (PbBC) were ‘concerned at the arbitrary manner in which the judicial commission was conducting the process of appointment of judges’.
“It is not transparent and is monopolised by the judges themselves, reducing all other members, including representatives of the bar councils, to mere a rubber stamp,” he said.
Hasan said despite requests to the chairman of the commission to amend the rules as per the constitution, in order to carry out meaningful consultation with the stakeholders, especially the Bars, the practice of judicial commission’s secretary and monopoly of judges continued.
He added that the Bar leaders had hoped that the member judges of the judicial commission would accept the democratic demands made by lawyers’ representatives but instead they were given reference of the judgment of Nadeem Ahmed case where the 18th Constitutional Amendment was challenged. He said a 17-member bench of the Supreme Court had ruled in their own favour, seeking constitutional amendments from the parliament, where the chief justice convened and regulated the meetings of the JC as he might deem proper. In addition, the rules required that the names of candidates for appointment be exclusively initiated by the respective CJs, Hasan said.
The parliament subsequently, passed 19th Amendment but did not give exclusive powers of proposing names of candidates to the CJ alone, he said, adding that as such this portion of the judgment was not accommodated in the 19th Amendment and all members of the judicial commission could legitimately propose names for elevation to the superior judiciary.
He said the right of the members of the commission was taken away through the rules made by the commission itself, which comprised mostly of former and sitting judges. As such, majority had been used to circumvent the spirit and wisdom of the Constitution where appointment of the judges was to be made in a genuinely consultative manner, he maintained.
Hasan said that the deprivation went so far as that judicial commission members were not even allowed to retain any copy of the minutes. It was also commonly known that all decisions were made by a core group of the commission members even prior to the meeting, he said, adding that the state of affairs was ‘intolerable, unconstitutional and against all norms of a democratic spirit’.
“We regret that we have to take the hard decision of not appointing a member to the judicial commission (JC) by the PBC. We do not wish to have any confrontation but plead that the principles of fairness, inclusion and wider consultation be followed,” he said.
Hasan said judges, unlike other elected officers, had a fixed and long tenure, therefore, a wrong choice could seriously undermine integrity and quality of the judicial system for a long period of time. He said the bars were firmly committed to observe the principles of rule of law and they would continue their struggle for the independence of judiciary. He said the bars wanted that the judiciary should command the highest respect from all the citizens so that its image might shine forever.
All the representatives of the legal fraternity said it was an honour for the lawyers that the opposition had proposed Asma Jahangir, former president of SCBA, for caretaker prime minister. They appreciated the PML-N over the move.