ISLAMABAD: With the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) set to pick the caretaker prime minister, the legal fraternity is gearing up efforts against appointment of superior court judges during the period an interim set-up is in place.
An all-Pakistan representative conference will be held by the Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA) on April 6 in Lahore in this regard.
“We believe that the caretaker government should not be part of any appointment of superior court judges because they have no constitutional mandate to do so,” the LHCBA’s chief Abid Saqi told Dawn on Saturday.
He said the caretaker government was only a stopgap arrangement meant to discharge the day to day affairs of the country with a limited mandate, and it would not have any representative character or capacity.
The appointment of the superior court judges was a very delicate matter that directly affected the litigants and the reputation of the entire judiciary depended on the quality of the judges, he said.
Therefore any decision having a permanent effect should be avoided by the caretakers, he suggested.
The Pakistan Bar Council’s Vice-Chairman, Qalbe Hassan, said meetings of the Judicial Commission (JC) constituted under article 175-A of the constitution would be attended by a law minister who would be selected by the caretaker prime minister for two months.
While the PBC and the provincial bar councils were staying away from the JC meetings until the amendments suggested by the council were incorporated into the Judicial Commission Rules of 2010, nomination of judges would only raise questions on the quality of selections, he said. However, two former presidents of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), Yasin Azad and Tariq Mehmood, differed from this point of view, saying nothing had been mentioned in the constitution that limited the authority and power of the caretaker prime minister.
“The roles of both the president and the caretaker prime minister in the appointment of judges have been reduced to a mere formality because the prime minister, based on the recommendations of the JC, has to render an advice to the president for the issuance of a notification,” Mr Azad said, adding that even the role of the parliamentary committee that approved the nominations received from the JC had been wiped out.
He said the JC had kept on holding its meetings in the absence of other constitutional stakeholders and yet the president had issued notifications for the appointment of the judges.
Therefore, nothing barred the caretakers from appointing senior judicial officers, he said.
Mr Mehmood also said there was no distinction between the powers of an elected or caretaker prime minister.
The LHCBA chief expressed hope that the conference would be attended by representatives of the PBC, provincial bar councils and high court and district bar associations.
He said the conference was likely to endorse the amendments proposed by the PBC. The lawyers did not subscribe to the decisions taken by the JC in the absence of the law minister, the attorney general and representatives of the PBC and the provincial councils.
He said the commission should amend the rules in accordance with the spirit of article 175-A which was part of the 18th Amendment. “Their decisions should be in line with the constitution.”
Mr Saqi said the lawyers’ conference would also decide about setting up a vigilance committee to monitor the coming general elections.