ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) has issued a countrywide strike call for Wednesday (July 28) to protest the summoning of the Judicial Commission of Pakistan (JCP) to take up for a second time the elevation of Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar of the Sindh High Court (SHC) for filling the remaining vacant office of a judge in the Supreme Court.
In addition, Khushdil Khan, the PBC vice chairman, summoned an emergent meeting for Tuesday (today) to consider names for representing it at JCP meetings.
In its last meeting on July 13, the JCP had recommended the elevation of Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel, the Balochistan High Court Chief Justice, but deferred deliberations on Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar’s case in view of concerns expressed by lawyers that the seniority principle had been bypassed.
Even the Sindh High Court Bar Association (SHCBA) had requested Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed and other members of the JCP to lay down criteria for appointments to the Supreme Court after soliciting the views of all stakeholders.
The SHCBA suggested that the seniority principle be followed pending finalisation of guidelines for elevation of judges.
During the JCP’s meeting on July 13, Attorney General Khalid Jawed Khan had suggested that in view of the sensitivity of the matter, the JCP could consider elevation of the four bypassed judges of the Sindh High Court as ad hoc judges of the Supreme Court, after the elevation of Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar, during subsequent meetings.
The four judges are: Chief Justice Ahmed Ali Sheikh, Justice Irfaan Saadat Khan, Justice Aqeel Ahmed Abbasi and Justice Hassan Azhar Mirza.
Under the rules, the Judicial Commission can recommend the appointment of ad hoc judges in the Supreme Court after its sanctioned strength of 17 judges is complete.
The PBC meeting has become all the more important since the two-year term of Akhtar Hussain, a member of the Pakistan Bar Council who represents the lawyers’ top body in the JCP, expired last month.
Since it is impossible for all members of the 23-member PBC to reach Islamabad on such a short notice, it is likely that the council decides to consider the names of Akhtar Hussain, Yasin Azad, Kamran Murtaza, Yousuf Leghari and Farooq Naek to represent it at JCP meetings.
Kamran Murtaza and Farooq Naek have never represented the PBC in the Judicial Commission of Pakistan. The other three have done so.
Farooq Naek is also a member of the Parliamentary Committee (PC), which considers the JCP’s recommendations before they are sent to the president for his approval.
Khushdil Khan, the PBC vice chairman, told Dawn that a letter written by Abid Zuberi, a lawyer, would be part of the agenda at Tuesday’s meeting.
The letter has suggested to the council to immediately nominate a lawyer of repute to the JCP so that the views of the community are brought to the commission’s notice. According to Abid Zuberi, the PBC’s stand on elevation of judges cannot be effectively conveyed in the absence of a representative from the JCP’s deliberations.
Since mere issuance of resolutions by the Pakistan Bar Council was not enough, Mr Zuberi added, some concrete steps should be taken so that the lawyers’ views were heard by the Judicial Commission.
In an emergent meeting on Monday, the PBC’s executive committee discussed the upcoming meeting of the JCP (July 28), especially the reconsideration of Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar’s elevation within a short span of 15 days.
Published in Dawn, July 27th, 2021