ISLAMABAD: As the Judicial Commission of Pakistan (JCP) is meeting on Sept 9, Lahore High Court Chief Justice Muhammad Ameer Bhatti has accorded his consent to the commission, expressing no objection over elevation to the Supreme Court of Justice Ayesha A. Malik, who is fourth in the seniority list of the high court.
A source privy to the development said that unlike what happened in the case of Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar of the Sindh High Court who was nominated to become a judge of the Supreme Court, the LHC chief justice expressed that he had no objection to the elevation of Justice Ayesha Malik to the apex court.
If elevated to the Supreme Court, Justice Ayesha Malik will be the first woman judge in the country’s judicial history and will serve the apex court until March 2031.
Interestingly, Sept 9 is also the date when Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) president Abdul Latif Afridi has called a countrywide protest to express anger over, what the legal fraternity perceived, disregard to the seniority principle in the appointment of judges to the superior judiciary.
SCBA calls countrywide protest as JCP meets on Sept 9
On the protest day, Latif Afridi had recently told the media, lawyers would boycott court proceedings and hold protest demonstrations across the country.
Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Khalid Jawed Khan had on Aug 31 written a letter to the premier bar councils and associations, seeking their help in exploring common grounds to avoid disharmony in the appointment process of judges to the Supreme Court.
The two-page letter was written to Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) vice chairman Khushdil Khan and SCBA president Latif Afridi days ahead of the Sept 9 JCP meeting to consider elevation of the first woman judge to the Supreme Court.
In his letter, the AGP stated that since issues relating to administration of justice in the country were vital, he would request to convey collective views of the bar so that these important constitutional matters could be resolved amicably in a dignified manner consistent with the highest traditions of this noble profession with which “we are all privileged to be affiliated”.
He recalled how the appointment of judges other than the most senior judges or chief justices of high courts to the Supreme Court had been under discussion recently and reflected discord between the views of the members of the JCP and bar councils and associations. He emphasised that the Constitution was silent on this issue, while the 2002 Supreme Court judgement in the SCBA case stipulated that seniority was not a mandatory requirement for appointment to the apex court.
While the PBC has already nominated its member in the JCP, the AGP stated in his letter, he intended to present the criteria for consideration by the JCP in its next meeting and would make every possible effort to persuade other members of the commission to adopt and make public such criteria leaving little room for disharmony on such vital issues as the appointment of judges of the Supreme Court.
The AGP also proposed that the JCP should acknowledge and reiterate the need for appointment of more women in the superior judiciary and confirm that there would always be at least one seat earmarked for appointment of a woman judge in the Supreme Court.
Published in Dawn, September 3rd, 2021