A RESOLUTION passed at a full-court meeting calling for the reappointment of Justice Khalilur Rehman Ramday and fresh appointment of Justice (retd) Rahmat Hussain Jafferi as ad hoc judges of the Supreme Court cannot in earnest be termed a welcome move. There are several points to consider here. First, Article 182 of the constitution as altered by the 19th Amendment clearly sets out the procedure for the appointment of ad hoc judges to the SC: “If … it is necessary to increase temporarily the number of Judges of the Supreme Court, the Chief Justice of Pakistan in consultation with the Judicial Commission … may in writing … with the approval of the President ….” There is no mention of the need for a full-court resolution, meaning the court has come up with a novel route to see its will implemented. Article 182 when read with Article 48 of the constitution would appear to give the President of Pakistan, acting on the binding advice of the prime minister, a veto in the appointment of ad hoc judges (“with the approval of the President”), so perhaps the resolution is a way to build pressure on the executive to ensure it yields to the court’s demand.
Second, at a time the judiciary is questioning the role of the political government in managing the permanent executive and demanding answers as to why certain state-appointed officials are given extensions or contract jobs, it ill behoves the judiciary to be seen to be favouring its own. For his meritorious and stellar service to the judiciary and the people of Pakistan, Justice Ramday in particular deserves praise. But institutions are best strengthened by denying the myth of indispensability. Justice Ramday has already received a one-year extension, which is to expire today. Every institution, be it uniformed, robed or civilian, must learn to move on from the era of even the greatest servants of the people.
Third, the country has seen in recent months how maturity on the political and judicial sides helped avert a ‘clash’ of institutions — and all sides have a responsibility to ensure the more amicable climate holds. The superior judiciary today is one of the freest and most independent in this country’s history and clearly enjoys the support of the people. In a country where institution-building has been ignored, and at times scuttled by self-interest, the present superior judiciary represents the best chance to build a solid, responsible and competent institution responsive to the needs of the citizenry. So anything which detracts from that perception and the ultimate mission of institution-building ought not to be welcomed.