Top law body, PBC at odds over CJP meeting account

Updated March 31, 2019


LJCP press statement about meeting did not reflect true picture of discussions, says Pakistan Bar Council. — AFP/File
LJCP press statement about meeting did not reflect true picture of discussions, says Pakistan Bar Council. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Bar Council (PBC), the supreme regulatory body of lawyers, created a controversy on Saturday when it said that the Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan’s (LJCP) press statement about a meeting between the bar representatives with the chief justice of Pakistan did not reflect true picture of the discussions that took place during the meeting.

In a statement, PBC Vice Chairman Syed Amjad Shah recalled that a 15-member delegation comprising different bar leaders raised four different issues at the meeting, including the exercise of inherent jurisdiction of the Supreme Court under Article 184(3) of the Constitution for enforcing fundamental rights.

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On Friday the LJCP issued a press release, highlighting the issue that emerged after the National Judicial Policy Making Committee’s (NJPMC) decision about sections 22A and 22B of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC). The focus of the press release was on the situation arising out of this decision as it briefly touched on other issues.

LJCP press statement about meeting did not reflect true picture of discussions, says Pakistan Bar Council

But, in its detailed five-page statement, the PBC said the delegation discussed with Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa four different issues, including determination of parameters by the Supreme Court for exercising its powers under Article 184(3) of the Constitution by amending the Supreme Court Rules 1980 in line with earlier demands of the bar councils.

According to the statement, the meeting also discussed effective enforcement of Article 209 of the Constitution (about the Supreme Judicial Council) for meaningful accountability of superior judiciary and expeditious disposal of references/complaints against judges.

The meeting also touched on functioning of the Judicial Commission (JC) for the appointments of judges as well as amendments to the Judicial Commission of Pakistan Rules 2010 as proposed by the PBC earlier.

In addition, the delegation expressed its reservation about the NJPMC decision regarding sections 22A and 22B of CrPC.

Referring to Article 184(3), the PBC vice chairman suggested during the meeting that the Supreme Court should sparingly exercise this jurisdiction by confining to cases pertaining to enforcement of fundamental rights to maintain the principle of trichotomy of powers. He proposed that the Supreme Court Rules 1980 be amended for prescribing parameters for exercising such powers.

At this, the PBC statement said, the chief justice told the delegation that after assuming the charge of the top judge, he had called a meeting of the full court of all judges of the apex court where the matter was discussed at length.

The chief justice assured the delegation that the apex court was already in the process of structuring the parameters and a final decision would be made soon while keeping in view aspirations of the members of the bar.

About Article 209, the bar members expressed concern over delay in disposal of references or complaints against judges of superior judiciary and emphasised effecting, meaningful and expeditious accountability in line with earlier demands of the legal fraternity.

The delegation also asked for making public the information regarding number of references and complaints pending before the SJC and suggested that once a reference was filed against a judge, he should not be allowed to perform his judicial function until and unless the reference or complaint against him was decided in his favour.

The PBC VC also told the chief justice about reservations of the bar over functioning of the JC which as per its present composition had majority of members from the judiciary and thus generally took decision on majority basis which often did not reflect views and aspirations of its minority members from the bar.

Amjad Shah requested the chief justice to accept the PBC proposal seeking amendments to the Judicial Commission of Pakistan Rules 2010.

In response, the chief justice observed that since the system had been prescribed under the constitution, any change in the rules could be brought about through legislation. He traced the system of appointment of judges right from the pre-independence days to the present constitutional position which had broadened the spectrum of the forum responsible for appointments of judges.

This was an evolutionary process and with the passage of time it would become more progressive, the chief justice observed, adding he himself had proposed certain changes in the rules as a result of which a committee had also been set up. The committee needed re-constitution which would be done soon at a meeting of the JC, the PBC statement said.

About the complaints and references, the chief justice observed that there was no pendency of references against judges, except for two or three cases, and all other pending cases had been disposed of.

Chief Justice Khosa said in future as soon as a complaint or reference with substance was received by the SJC, it would be taken up and decided by the council without any delay, the statement said.

Regarding the setting up of model courts, the chief justice observed that previously murder trials were used to be decided within three days, but somehow this practice was discontinued with the passage of time and as a result such cases started to pile up.

The chief justice emphasised that continuous trial system was necessary for early disposal of murder trials and that the initial experience of establishment of model courts in Punjab had proved to be satisfactory and commendable for timely deciding murder trials and it was expected that expansion of courts in other parts of the country would give good results of expeditious disposal of cases, the press statement stated.

The chief justice also observed that since the entertainment of applications for registration of FIR and setting up of model courts would be new experience, teething problems might arise but positive results would come after some reasonable time, the statement said.

Published in Dawn, March 31st, 2019