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Tuesday July 23, 2024

Appointment of judges to SC, HCs, FSC: Govt considering amending Article 175A, top judicial panel told

Federal government has decided to amend the constitutional provision for appointment of judges to the superior judiciary

By News Desk & Sohail Khan
May 04, 2024
A view of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. — SC website/File
A view of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. — SC website/File

ISLAMABAD: The federal government has decided to amend the constitutional provision for appointment of judges to the superior judiciary, with particular reference to changing the composition of the Judicial Commission of Pakistan (JCP), which was established under the 18th Constitutional Amendment.

A JCP meeting was held here at the Supreme Court, with Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa in the chair as the chairman of the commission. The meeting was attended by all members of the commission as well as Federal Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs Azam Nazir Tarar, Attorney General Mansoor Usman Awan and representatives of bar councils.

According to sources, Justice Munib Akhtar, senior judge of the Supreme Court and member of the Commission asked the Law Minister as to whether the composition of the Judicial Commission could possibly change as a result of the amendments.

The law minister replied that the existing composition of the Judicial Commission might also change in the light of the amendments, being made in the constitutional provisions.

At this, according to sources, Justice Muneeb Akhtar said there was no need to discuss the proposed changes in the commission’s rules.

It was learnt that during the meeting Lahore High Court (LHC) Chief Justice Malik Shahzad Ahmed remarked that the constitutional amendments would be seen when done, adding that at present so much work had been done on these rules; therefore, the effort should not be wasted.

Justice Yahya Afridi, another member of the commission, remarked that in the current circumstances, he would not give any opinion on the proposed rules.

Sources revealed that all members of the Judicial Commission endorsed the opinion of Justice Yahya Afridi.

Sources said the Peshawar High Court chief justice said the discussion on the rules should be postponed, but there was a need for more judges in the Peshawar High Court.

The PHC CJ stressed that appointments of judges to his high court should be made on the basis of existing rules of the Judicial Commission of Pakistan.

At this, sources said, chief justices of other high courts also agreed with the demand of the PHC chief justice.

It was learnt that CJP Qazi Faez Isa, who is the chairman of the Judicial Commission, said member judges of the commission might not give their opinion right now, but if representatives of bar council wanted to give their opinion on the rules of the commission, they should listen to them.

Sources however, said that members of the Bar Councils also agreed to defer consideration of amendments in rules of the Commission at which the meeting was adjourned.

Meanwhile, Jazeela Asalm, registrar Supreme Court and secretary of Judicial Commission, issued minutes of the meeting on Friday night. The minutes said “the meeting was convened to consider the commission’s proposed rules, drafted by the rules making committee, co-chaired by Justice Mansoor Ali Shah, senior puisne judge, and Justice Manzoor Ahmed Malik, former judge, Supreme Court of Pakistan, vide Notification dated 8 December 2023 pursuant to decision of the Commission dated 4 December 2023”.

It was stated that the JCQ chairman elaborated the agenda of the meeting and invited views of the members; however, “at the outset, the federal law minister requested the commission to defer the meeting because the federal government was considering amending Article 175A of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan 1973 and that the constitution of the commission may be changed”.

It was further stated that Justice Yahya Afridi suggested that since the government was intending to propose amendments to the constitution, discussion on the agenda should be deferred and the meeting should be postponed.

“The view of all members was solicited and it was agreed to adjourn the meeting; however, it was agreed that this should not delay the process of appointments, which may continue in accordance with the existing rules”, say the minutes of the meeting.

Separately, Federal Law Minister Azam Nazir Tarar, speaking in Geo News programme ‘Aaj Shahzeb Khanzada Ke Saath’, hinted at bringing constitutional amendments to change the traditional approach to selecting judges for the Supreme Court as well as high courts. He said they wanted to strike a “balance” in the system. The federal minister regretted that currently the status of the Parliamentary Committee on Judicial Appointments was not more than a “rubber stamp”, following the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.

He further said that there should be a “balance” in the appointment of the judges.

Referring to the proposals circulating on social media platforms about the chief justice’s term, the minister said: “I will not completely reject proposals regarding the tenure of the chief justice.”

According to media reports, the government was mulling that the tenure of the chief justice should be for a fixed term, besides judicial reforms.

In the 18th Amendment, there was a balance in the appointment of judges, the law minister added.

Azam Nazir Tarar said the process of appointing judges around the world was done by the judiciary and the administration together. In many countries, the role of the judiciary in appointment of judges was very limited. He said Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had ordered for constitutional amendment for appointment of judges. “We will definitely discuss this matter with the opposition,” he added.