ISLAMABAD: Eight judges of the sitting Supreme Court will become chief justices starting from January next while an equal number of such top judicial officers will retire before making it to the topmost position.
As per the 1996 Supreme Court judgement in the Al-Jihad Trust case, the senior most judge automatically stands elevated as the chief justice and is formally sworn in as such after the superannuation of the incumbent chief justice.
Neither the president nor the prime minister has any role in the appointment of the chief justice except that the president issues the notification for such mandatory choice and administers the oath of office.
The seniority of the judges is counted from the day of their induction into the respective superior courts. In the case of the Supreme Court justice, it begins the date of their elevation, which, in fact, is a new appointment. A judge may be senior to another justice at the high court but will become junior in the Supreme Court if he is brought to it after the other.
The next chief justices will remain in office for different tenures ranging from a minimum of 10 months to a maximum of over two years of the eight top judges, three each hail from Punjab and Sindh while one each from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.
Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar retires on January 16, 2019, after attaining the superannuation age of 65. After that, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa will come in to serve as top judge for almost 11 months. He will superannuate on December 20, 2019. Justice Gulzar Ahmed will be the next chief justice, who will hold the office for more than two years till February 2, 2022.
On his retirement, Justice Umar Ata Bandial will replace him to continue in the top position for some nineteen months till August 16, 2023.
Justice Qazi Faez Isa will become the chief justice after this superannuation. He will serve as the Supreme Court head for over one year till October 25, 2024. Justice Ijazul Ahsan will be his replacement, who will work as the chief justice for some 10 months till August 4, 2025. After that, Justice Sajjad Ali Shah will be the senior most judge, who will come in. He will hold the berth for over two years till November 26, 2027.
Then, Justice Munib Akhtar will be elevated as the chief justice, who will hold the slot for more than one year till December 13, 2028. The last and eighth chief justice from the present judges will be Justice Yahya Afridi, who will preside over the apex court for over one year till January 22, 2030.
The data shows that three judges – Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, Justice Gulzar Ahmed and Justice Ijazul Ahsan —of the five-member bench that had heard the Panama case against ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and others will become the chief justices for different tenures.
The fourth member, Justice Ejaz Afzal, retired early this year while the fifth judge, Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, will superannuate on September 27, 2019 without becoming the chief justice. At the time of his retirement, Justice Khosa would be holding this berth.
The seven judges, who will not be able to become the chief justices for not having the requisite seniority over their colleagues, include Justice Mushir Alam, Justice Maqbool Bagar, Justice Manzoor Ahmed Malik, Justice Sardar Tariq Masood, Justice Faisal Arab, Justice Mazhar Alam Miankhel, and Justice Sajjad Ali Shah.
Under Article 175A, the president shall appoint the most senior judge of the Supreme Court as the chief justice of Pakistan. However, the judicial commission, headed by the chief justice, decides about elevation of the high court judges to the Supreme Court. It consists of the chief justice, four most senior judges of the Supreme Court; a former chief justice or a former judge of the apex court to be nominated by the chief justice in consultation with the four judges, for a term of two years; a federal law minister, attorney general for Pakistan; and a senior advocate of the Supreme Court nominated by the Pakistan Bar Council for a term of two years.
For appointment of high court judges, the commission also includes the chief justice of the high court to which the nomination is being made; the most senior Judge of that high court; provincial law minister, an advocate having not less than 15 years practice in the high court to be nominated by the concerned provincial bar council for a term of two years.
Long time ago, some illustrious lawyers were inducted in the Supreme Court as judges, but this practice has been given up since long. Now, only the high court judges are elevated to the apex court and the judicial commission decides about it. Generally, the high court chief justices are brought to the apex court.
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