ISLAMABAD: A lawyer has challenged before the Supreme Court the National Judicial Policy Making Committee with a request to declare it illegal and against the concept of the independence of judiciary.

In his petition, Advocate Riaz Hanif Rahi asked the court to declare the guidelines laid down by the committee for expeditious disposal of cases as illegal and interference in independent dispensation of justice.

The NJPMC — a brainchild of former chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry — was set up amid fanfare through an ordinance in 2009 with an idea to coordinate and harmonise judicial policy within the court system in coordination with the Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan (LJCP) for implementation of guidelines adopted by it.

The committee’s basic aim is to improve the capacity and performance of the administration of justice, setting performance standards for judicial officers and persons associated with the performance of judicial and quasi-judicial functions, achieving improvement in terms and conditions of service of judicial officers and court staff and to ensure an skilled and efficient judiciary, etc.

But Advocate Rahi believes that the mandate of a judge of a superior court was only to administer justice in accordance with the law and constitution and the jurisdiction conferred by the law in no circumstances can be enhanced.

Earlier, he had challenged before the Islamabad High Court the ordinance under which the committee was constituted. His plea was rejected in March this year.

Now he has moved the same petition before the Supreme Court through an appeal pleading to overturn the high court’s judgment and declare the NJPMC as illegal since any guideline or direction issued by it cannot be challenged as the case may not be decided independently when the chief justice presides over the meetings of the committee attended by other judges of the superior judiciary.

The ordinance, according to the petitioner, remained dormant but it was activated by Justice Chaudhry as head of the LJCP. As a result, a three-day judicial conference was organised in July 2009 followed by a meeting of the NJPMC on Oct 23-24, 2009, in which it was decided through a national judicial policy that all cases filed till Dec 21, 2008, would be disposed of within a year.

Moreover, a new concept of recording evidence against different complaints through the local commission headed by the district judiciary, according to the petitioner, was developed through the committee which ostensibly meant to keep pressure on the executive.

The quick disposal of cases was, however, vehemently opposed by the bar associations by observing strikes and protests on the grounds that the recommendation of the judicial conferences did not carry the weight of law.

The fixation of cases was also made following the judicial policy so developed, thus the former chief justice allegedly used the platform of the NJPMC for partisan and political purposes with mala fide intention.

Advocate Rahi contended that the provision under the ordinance that required the chief justice to be the chairman of NJPMC was in conflict with the basic structure of the constitution that ensures independence of the judiciary under Article 207(1b) as well as Article VII of the code of conduct of the judges that asks for avoiding extrajudicial duties or responsibilities and also requires of a judge to avoid being a candidate for any elective office in any organisation. Moreover, Article 6 of the code of conduct for judges also requires that a judge should not seek publicity and undue advantage, the petition said.

Published in Dawn, December 25th, 2015

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