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ISLAMABAD: The controversy created by the Judicial Commission (JC) by dropping the names of seven judges of the Lahore High Court (LHC) from the list of those whose tenure has been extended deepened when the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) asked the bi-partisan eight-member Parliamentary Committee (PC) to call recommendations of the LHC chief justice to the JC and if possible send the matter back to the commission for reconsideration.

The JC on Oct 12 had extended for another year the tenure of seven additional judges of the LHC but dropped the names of an equal number of judicial members from the same high court. But the decision prompted intense criticism when PBC Vice Chairman Moh­ammad Ahsan Bhoon described the decision reflective of favouritism in disregard of the consideration of merit and competence.

Both the JC and PC are two limbs created under Article 175-A of the Constitution through the 18th and 19th amendments, but the appointment procedure of judges instead of being streamlined became controversial, especially during the time when former chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry was heading the JC and recommended over 120 judges in the superior judiciary.

Parliamentary committee asked to send matter back to judicial commission

Resultantly perception grew that the PC had become useless in the wake of an all-powerful JC, especially when the nominations for the elevation of a judge could only be initiated by the chief justice. This also led the PBC to first boycott JC proceedings and then suggest amendments to the JC Rules, 2010, which the commission is still seized with.

But legal observers believed that the May 2011 Supreme Court judgement in the Munir Hussain Bhatti case virtually disturbed the equilibrium in favour of the JC when the apex court had ruled that the PC should give reasons for not accepting the recommendations of the JC on the appointment of judges otherwise it would be considered as “unreasoned and arbitrary”.

Now a fresh letter issued by Ahsan Bhoon has invited the attention of Arshad Khan Leghari, the current PC chairman, to convey the concern of the legal fraternity.

The copies of the letter have also been sent to other members of the PC — Senators Raja Zafarul Haq, Ilyas Ahmad Bilour, Farooq H. Naek and Javed Abbasi, MNAs Mahmood Bashir Virk, Naveed Qamar and Shah Mahmood Qureshi, and PC secretary Amjad Pervaiz. Meanwhile, senior PBC member Raheel Kamran Sheikh dubbed the letter as personal opinion of the Mr Bhoon and said such a statement was issued without calling a meeting of the supervisory body of lawyers and having an appropriate resolution passed after deliberation of all members.

Published in Dawn, October 22nd, 2017