PESHAWAR: Supreme Court Bar Association president Lateef Afridi and other leaders of lawyers sit on the stage during the convention on Saturday.—White Star
PESHAWAR: Supreme Court Bar Association president Lateef Afridi and other leaders of lawyers sit on the stage during the convention on Saturday.—White Star

PESHAWAR: The All-Pakistan Lawyers Conv­ention held here on Saturday called upon the Judicial Commission of Pakistan (JCP) to strictly adhere to seniority criterion for elevation of high court judges to the Supreme Court, declaring that any violation of the principle would be resisted by the legal fraternity.

The convention unanimously adopted several resolutions demanding appropriate amendments be inserted into the Judicial Commission Rules in consultation with all stakeholders, particularly the Bar, to introduce fair, transparent and objective criteria for the appointment of judges to superior courts.

The convention demanded that till introduction of transparency in the process, the principle of seniority should be strictly followed.

It demanded that to avoid manipulation in appointment of judges, the representation of members in judicial commission under Article 175 (A) of the Constitution should be numbered in such a way that equality among judges and other stakeholders, particularly legal fraternity, was ensured.

The speakers at the convention said that “pick and choose” policy for appointing judges to superior courts in violation of merit had tarnished image of the judiciary.

The convention was jointly hosted by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Bar Council (KPBC), Peshawar High Court Bar Association (PHCBA) and Peshawar Bar Association (PBA) and was attended by representative of different bar councils and associations from across the country.

Rejects proposed body as an attempt to curb independence of media

Through another resolution, the convention opposed the proposed Pakistan Media Development Authority and termed it a move by the federal government to curb independence of media. It resolved to oppose any move by the government to muzzle the press and the media.

The gathering expressed concern over a recent judgement of the Supreme Court declaring as unconstitutional a law on reinstatement of sacked government employees and stated that it had rendered around 17,000 people jobless.

The participants called upon the government to enact a law to offset the effect of the judgement.

The convention demanded ban on appointments of retired government employees, particularly those associated with the judicial service.

Those who addressed the convention included president of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) Abdul Lateef Afridi, its former president Ali Ahmad Kurd, Pakistan Bar Council vice chairman Khushdil Khan, its executive committee’s chairman Mohammad Faheem Wali, KPBC vice chairman Naeem Uddin, PHCBA president Bahlol Khattak, Islamabad Bar Council vice chairman Zulfiqar Abbas, Islamabad High Court Bar Association president Zahid Mahmood Raja, Lahore High Court Bar Association president Maqsood Ahmad Buttar, Karachi Bar Association president Mohammad Naeem Qureshi and PBA president Amjid Ali Marwat.

Lateef Afridi said that presently there were around 54,000 pending cases in the Supreme Court. He suggested that the strength of judges in the apex court should be increased by 10 more judges to resolve the issue of pendency of cases, otherwise this problem could not be solved in 20 years.

About the recent controversy over consideration of Justice Ayesha Malik of the Lahore High Court for elevation to the Supreme Court, he said that they had no issue with the judge but elevation to apex court should be on the basis of seniority and not “personal likes and dislikes”.

“We are not against appointment of a woman judge to the Supreme Courts. I believe that there should be at least three women judges in the apex court and five each in each high court,” Mr Afridi said.

He called upon the Supreme Court to turn down the review petition field in the case of Justice Faez Isa as an earlier review petition had already been decided and another one could not be filed. He said that nobody had any problem with Justice Isa till he had delivered judgments in Faizabad sit-in and Quetta suicide blast cases, wherein he had exposed wrong policies of some state actors.

Ali Ahmad Kurd warned that the lawyers fraternity would not accept any unconstitutional act in the appointment of judges. He said that all stakeholders, especially the Bar, should be consulted in these appointments, which should be strictly based on merit and seniority.

Khushdil Khan said that the government had been taking steps to scuttle voice of free media, but the lawyers would never allow such acts. He said that independence of judiciary was vital for rule of law and enforcement of fundamental rights in the country.

Zahid Mahmood Raja regretted that since 1954 senior judges of high courts had been ignored in elevation to apex court and junior judges had been elevated who served the interest of their “promoters” instead of that of the institution.

Maqsood Buttar questioned how one could expect justice in the society when injustice was meted out to judges of superior courts.

Zulfiqar Abbas said that there should be meaningful consultation with the representatives of relevant bar councils and bar associations. He said that judges appointed on the basis of favouritism did not give independent judgments.

Published in Dawn, September 26th, 2021

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