ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) vice chairman Khushdil Khan has urged the Supreme Court to fix a date for hearing of review petitions in the Justice Qazi Faez Isa case as early as possible.

The apex court had on Dec 10, 2020 reserved its ruling on whether the present six-judge bench or a 10-judge bench should adjudicate on a set of petitions seeking review in the Justice Isa case.

Khushdil Khan, who belongs to the Independent Group (commonly known as the Asma Jahangir Group), was elected PBC vice chairman during the 231st meeting of the council held at the Supreme Court building here on Thursday. Attorney General Khalid Jawed Khan, who presided over the meeting, left soon after the election.

Mr Khan secured 18 votes in the 23-member house. Enrolled as a Supreme Court lawyer in 1998, he is considered to be a progressive lawyer who has always played a role in strengthening democratic institutions.

He participated in student politics and was elected president of the student union of Gomal University, Dera Ismail Khan. He was a political activist and was arrested for taking part in the MRD movement and remained a political prisoner for almost a year.

He was also elected a member of the provincial assembly representing the Awami National Party in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly.

Concern expressed over long delay in appointment of judges in various high courts

Likewise, Faheem Wali Khan, who was elected chairman of the Executive Committee of the PBC, belongs to the Asma Group and is a young lawyer.

Soon after the election, the PBC reiterated its stance that it would ensure meaningful consultation with representatives of the bar before finalising the names for appointment of judges to the superior courts and making the process fair and transparent.

The PBC meeting expressed serious concern over the delay in appointment of judges in different high courts against vacant posts for a long time, especially in the Lahore High Court (LHC) where almost 20 posts of judges have been lying vacant for a long time.

The meeting also expressed concern that recommendations of the LHC chief justice placed before the Judicial Commission of Pakistan a number of times had not been considered on one pretext or the other. And at a recent meeting of the JCP, the matter remained inconclusive once again.

“This undermines the recommendation of the high court chief justice, reportedly at the instance of some judges of the Supreme Court,” the meeting alleged, adding that the council, therefore, was of the view that the present process of the appointment of judges, being not fair and transparent, should be looked into by parliament to bring about appropriate amendments to Article 175-A of the Constitution.

Such an amendment should strike a balance in role of the JCP and the parliamentary committee for appointment of judges, which is allegedly being dominated by the judiciary.

The council also emphasised the need for revisiting the Munir Bhatti case and review of the 19th Constitution Amendment and appointed a special committee, headed by Farooq H. Naek, to formulate proposals for amendments to the Constitution in this regard.

The PBC also reiterated the long-standing demand of the legal fraternity for making public proceedings of the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) with respect to complaints and references against judges of the superior courts.

“It is a matter of regret that the SJC never acceded to the demand of the legal fraternity,” the PBC said and, while reiterating its earlier stance, demanded that the SJC make public its previous proceedings held to listen to complaints/references filed against judges as well as the number of cases pending before it, with detail of such cases e.g. names of complainants, the judges concerned and the allegations made against them.

The council also reiterated its earlier stance and urged the Chief Justice of Pakistan to make suitable amendments to Supreme Court Rules, 1980, to provide the right of appeal before a larger bench of the apex court, consisting of at least five judges, against its decisions/orders/judgements taken/passed by exercising its suo motu jurisdiction, under Article 184(3) of the Constitution.

The PBC repeated its demand for independence of judiciary and stopping onslaughts of the executive against independent judges of the superior courts, especially against Justice Qazi Faez Isa.

The PBC expressed the resolve that it would continue to strive for the supremacy of the Constitution, rule of law, independence of judiciary, strengthening of democratic institutions and continuity of the democratic system of government.

Published in Dawn, January 22nd, 2021

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