ISLAMABAD: Justice Sardar Tariq Masood, senior judge of the Supreme Court, on Friday requested the Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Umer Ata Bandial to release the factual and correct detailed minutes of the meeting of the Judicial Commission of Pakistan (JCP) held the other day for consideration of elevation five high court judges to the apex court.
In a letter addressed to the Chief Justice of Pakistan, the chairman of JCP and its members, Justice Tariq Masood said that the press release of the PRO is contrary to the facts, as no one during almost three-hour long meeting proposed to postpone the meeting. “I request for the immediate release of factual and correct detail minutes of the meeting while giving detail of observations/ discussion of each member in the meeting room,” Justice Tariq Masood said adding that the correct minutes of the meeting, if made publicly, will stop needless rumours.
It is pertinent to mention here that the Public Relations Department of Supreme Court the other day issued a press release about the JCP meeting stating that after a detailed discussion, the chairman JCP proposed to defer the meeting to enable the Chief Justice of Pakistan to place additional information and data about those nominated and if he considers appropriate, add more names to the list for consideration by the JCP, says the press release. It further stated that the proposal to defer the meeting was supported by Justice Ijazul Ahsen, Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, ex-Justice Sarmad Jalal Osmany and the Attorney General for Pakistan. “It was accordingly decided to defer the meeting and the date of next meeting will be communicated to the Members of the Judicial Commission by the Chairman, Judicial Commission of Pakistan,” the press release had concluded.
Later, Justice Qazi Faez Isa, who had attended the JCP meeting via Zoom from Spain, sent a letter to the Chief Justice and members of JCP to release its decision to the media on the proposed names of five judges for their elevation to the Supreme Court. Justice Isa had said that the eyes of the nation are transfixed on the JCP and they have a constitutional right to know what was decided. “Therefore, the acting secretary should immediately release this decision to the media, which will also stem unnecessary speculation and misreporting as the meeting was held behind closed doors,” Justice Isa wrote.
On Friday, Justice Sardar Tariq Masood in his letter said that he came to know through newspapers that a press release has been issued by the PRO of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, giving a different version of events from what occurred during the meeting. Yesterday, the judge said when the meeting started, the chairman/(CJP), Judicial Commission of Pakistan (the Commission) described the credentials of his nominee judges and then sought the views of Justice Sarmad Jalal Osmany, former Judge/Member of the commission regarding the nominations who while endorsing four nominees disapproved the nomination of Justice Naimatullah Phulpoto. Thereafter, Justice Sajjad Ali Shah and Justice Ejazul Ahsan fully endorsed all the judges nominated by the chairman (CJP) for their appointment as judges of the Supreme Court. The judge said adding that on his turn, he after discussing the seniority principle referred to a comparative analysis of the nominated judges with superseded senior judges. “I also recommended that Justice Athar Minallah, who is second in seniority amongst the Chief Justices of all the High Courts, be considered and stated that no one has raised a finger against his integrity, competency, etc”, Justice Masood said
“I did not approve three nominated judges of the High Court of Sindh and one judge of the Lahore High Court and requested to defer the nomination of the judge of the Peshawar High Court”, the judge added.
The judge further said that the law minister, learned Attorney General for Pakistan and Member of Pakistan Bar Council/Member of the commission agreed with my recommendations and dis-approved three nominee judges of the High Court of Sindh and one of the Lahore High Court.
“Justice Qazi Faez Isa also agreed with me and when he was in the middle of his reasons for disapproval, the matter became clear that five members of the commission have disapproved the names of four nominee judges when at that juncture unprecedently, undemocratically and without dictating decision of the commission and formally ending the meeting abruptly, the chairman (CJP) stood up followed by Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan and left the meeting room by uttering the word ‘adjourned,” Justice Tariq Masood said.
The judge said that the press release of the PRO is contrary to the facts, as no one during the almost three hours long meeting, proposed to postpone the meeting adding that the meeting ended abruptly when it became clear that nominations had been rejected by a majority of five/four of nine members of the commission and it was wrongly mentioned in the press release that four members of the commission have requested for postponement of the meeting. “Had there been any such situation, then there was no occasion by the members for giving their comments qua approval or disapproval of the nominations.”
The judge said adding that Justice Qazi Faez Isa, after the abrupt ending of the meeting, wrote to the chairman of the commission and all the members of the commission (including myself) and copied his letter to the acting secretary, correctly stating what had happened. “I have spoken to him before writing this to find out if after the receipt of his message whether the chairman or any member disputed with what he had written yesterday after the meeting and he informed me that no one had,” Justice Masood said.
The judge said that the press release was issued afterwards adding that the PRO is not a member of the commission nor is he the commission’s secretary.
Meanwhile, President Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) Ahsen Bhoon along with the representatives of the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC)and all other federal and provincial Bar Councils/High Court Bar Associations, have hailed the “principle stand” maintained by the majority members of Judicial Commission of Pakistan (JCP), during the JCP meeting held on July 28th 2022, wherein all the nominations for the elevation to Supreme Court, were disapproved followed by the deferment of JCP meeting.
In a statement, he especially mentioned the gallant resolve of Azam Nazeer Tarar, Federal Law Minister, and Ashtar Ausaf Ali, learned Attorney General for Pakistan, who under the instructions of the prime minister, preferred the cause of principle of seniority, in line with Art.175 (A) of the Constitution, thus ensuring the sanctity of the institution, adherence to rule of law and the supremacy of the constitution.
He also hailed the adamant stance being preferred by Justice Qazi Faez Isa, senior puisne Judge, Supreme Court of Pakistan, Justice Sardar Tariq Masood, Judge Supreme Court of Pakistan, Justice (retd.) Sarmad Jalal Osmani, and Akhtar Hussain, Bar Council representative, voted against the four nominations, whereas regarding the fifth nomination of Chief Justice Peshawar High Court, the commission asked for a comparison with other Chief Justices of High Courts.
He said that the elevation of judges should preferably be made based on seniority first and thereafter other credentials of the candidate may also be considered, for which he called the relevant stakeholder i.e. Parliament to undertake meaningful legislation. He further said that undoubtedly, competency, honesty and proficiency are imperative and equally important for elevations to the apex court; however, discouraging the principle of seniority is also equally disrespectful to other senior judges. “Continuous disregard of seniority principle is constantly undermining the integrity of the entire judicial system and would also be a discriminatory practice for the judges who have not only served the judiciary to the hilt but also deserve elevation,” Bhoon concluded.
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