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Friday January 28, 2022

Merit matters

November 30, 2021

This refers to the news report ‘SHCBA moves SC for structuring judicial appointment criteria’ (November 28). The Sindh High Court Bar Association (SHCBA) wants objective criteria and a fair and transparent process of appointing judges in the superior courts. Although the demands seem fair, the concept of ‘seniority’ becomes meaningless where some initial appointments are based on ‘discretion’. The problem lies in the initial appointment of judges in the high courts and at junior levels, where merit has been ignored at times. Article 175-A of the constitution is also silent on the topic of merit. In a country where even a junior clerk cannot be appointed without competitive tests, High Court judges are appointed without conducting competitive examinations through any independent organisation.

Those holding influence in legal circles aspire to be judges, so no one speaks up about the matter. This results in the selection and appointment of lawyers who enjoy power and influence, depriving others of their right to compete for appointment. It is time for parliamentarians and the civil society including lawyers, to demand that judges be appointed through competitive examinations by public service commissions. Only then can the principle of ‘seniority’ become effective.

Sikander Aqeel Ansari

Islamabad

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