ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) has expressed concern over the proposal to elevate a “junior judge” of the Sindh High Court (SHC) to the Supreme Court, saying that it would raise questions about the capability of the four “senior justices being bypassed”.
In a statement released on Friday, SCBA secretary Ahmed Shehzad Farooq Rana said length of service should be the first yardstick for appointment or elevation of judges.
The statement comes days before a meeting of the Judicial Commission of Pakistan (JCP), slated for Tuesday (July 13), to consider the elevation of Balochistan High Court’s Chief Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel and SHC’s Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar — the fifth most senior judge in the court — to the apex court.
Competence and honesty were “equally important” for elevation to the Supreme Court, but discouraging seniority was “equally disrespectful to senior judges”, Ahmed Rana observed.
“Habitual sidestepping of senior justices during elevation is undermining the integrity of the entire judicial system and will be a discriminatory practice for the judges who have not only served the judiciary to the hilt but also deserve elevation as vested right,” the SCBA secretary added.
The practice raises the question that if the four judges senior to Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar do not have the legal acumen to be elevated to the apex court, why were they appointed, and then retained, on their current positions in the first place, the statement said.
The legal fraternity should disapprove of any deviation from the established practice of seniority as this would not be a healthy move for the institution itself, Ahmed Rana said.
The criterion for elevation to the Supreme Court was enshrined in Article 175-A of the Constitution and further validated by the 2002 ruling in the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan vs Federation of Pakistan case.
“But the way in which the matter of elevation has usually been dealt with, has only heightened apprehensions,” Ahmed Shehzad Farooq Rana said.
“The SCBA is of the view that any such appointment will be in defiance of the standards set in the Al Jihad Trust case,” he said.
“We demand the expected elevation of a junior justice of SHC to the apex court be discouraged and the principle of seniority be preferred.
“We also demand that a fair, just and unbiased pattern be evolved and adhered to while making appointments/elevation of judges in accordance with the true spirit of Article 175-A of the Constitution,” the SCBA office-bearer said.
The Sindh High Court Bar Association had also requested the Chief Justice of Pakistan and other members of the JCP last week to thrash out “transparent criteria” for appointment to the apex court in consultation with all stakeholders, but at the same time it suggested that till such time, the seniority principle be followed.
Published in Dawn, July 10th, 2021