ISLAMABAD: Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jilani was nominated as the acting Chief Election Commissioner on Friday.
Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry nominated Justice Jilani to act as the Chief Election Commissioner with immediate effect and till the appointment of a new Chief Election Commissioner.
The appointment has been made in accordance with terms of Article 217 (2) of the Constitution. The nomination by the Chief Justice was instantly notified by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
He will assume his responsibility anytime after being administered oath as acting Chief Election Commissioner early next week.
Interestingly, Justice Jilani will be holding acting charge of two important constitutional offices at the end of the current month. He will be the acting Chief Justice and acting Chief Election Commissioner at the same time. Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry will proceed to Thimphu (Bhutan) to attend the second South Asia Chief Justices roundtable on environmental justice to be held on Aug 30 and 31.Justice Jilani hails from Multan and is a close relative of former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.
Under the principle of seniority for appointment of the Chief Justice laid down by the Supreme Court, Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jilani is to assume the office of Chief Justice after retirement of Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry in the second week of December.
An interesting situation may develop if a new chief election commissioner was not appointed by that time.
S.M. Zafar, a constitutional expert, observed that there would be no legal issue even if a regular Chief Election Commissioner was not appointed in the next four months.
He said in such a situation, Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jilani, in his capacity as Chief Justice, would nominate some other judge of the Supreme Court as acting Chief Election Commissioner.
The office of the Chief Election Commissioner fell vacant when Justice (retd) Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim resigned on July 31 after the Supreme Court’s verdict of amending the schedule for presidential elections.
Justice Ebrahim was of the view that it was nothing short of encroachment in the domain of the Election Commission. He had prepared a note in this regard, but could not convince his fellow members of the commission to endorse it for fear of contempt proceedings and decided not to work with members who he thought should have supported the move to protect the independence of the Election Commission.
He was the first CEC to have been appointed for an extended term of five years, but resigned after heading the commission for a little over a year.
The president accepted his resignation and the vacancy of the office was notified by the ministry of parliamentary affairs on Aug 13. On receiving a copy of the notification, the ECP had sent a reference to the Chief Justice for appointment of an acting chief election commissioner on Aug 15.
The government has yet to initiate the process for appointment of a new chief election commissioner. A 12-member parliamentary committee will finalise the matter.