ISLAMABAD: After over two-hour long meeting, the Judicial Commission of Pakistan (JCP) finally on Wednesday proposed six names to be appointed as the additional judges of the Peshawar High Court (PHC).

Presided over by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Gulzar Ahmad, the JCP decided to approve district and sessions judge of Nowshera Fazal Subhan, district and sessions judge and administrative judge of the accountability court Peshawar Shahid Khan, district and sessions judge and presiding officer of the special court (offences in banks) Peshawar Dr Khurshid Iqbal, additional advocate general of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Kamran Hayat Miankhel, and Supreme Court lawyers Mohammad Ijaz Khan and Mohammad Faheem Wali, who also served as the chairman of the executive committee of the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC).

An informed source told Dawn that during the meeting, Justice Qazi Faez Isa abstained from voting on the grounds that unless appropriate criteria for the nomination of judges to the superior courts was not determined, he would not participate in the voting.

Justice Isa abstains from voting, calls for nomination criteria

Justice Isa is expected to take the same stand when the JCP will consider the elevation of Justice Ayesha A Malik of the Lahore High Court to the Supreme Court today (Thursday).

During the meeting, Justice Maqbool Baqar and Justice Sardar Tariq Masood questioned why the present three judges from the district judiciary were nominated bypassing their senior and even proposed to defer their elevation but the PHC chief justice highlighted that the high court was in need for judges, especially in view of a backlog of around 50,000 cases.

The CJ suggested that when the strength of the high court was being enhanced from 20 to 30 after the merger of Fata and Pata with KP, the issue of senior district judges could be discussed and proposed in future.

However, there is a unanimity about the nominations regarding the three members from the legal fraternity as every member seems convinced about their competence. The JCP accepted the suggestion and decided to approve the nominations.

Other JCP members were the CJP, Justice Umar Ata Bandial, former judge Sarmad Jalal Osmany, federal law minister Barrister Dr Farogh Naseem, attorney general for Pakistan Khalid Jawed Khan, Chief Justice of the Peshawar High Court Qaiser Rashid Khan, KP law minister Fazal Shakoor Khan and representative of the KP Bar Ahmed Farooq Khattak.

An informed source told Dawn that a lawyer from Lahore had also raised objection against one of the JCP members by writing a letter to the CJP. He insisted that the member in question was an employee of the State Bank of Pakistan and therefore, he didn’t have an independent view, especially when it was being alleged that under the IMF pressure, complete autonomy was being considered to be granted to the central bank by the government.

At the outset, the source said, Justice Isa highlighted the need for developing criteria against which the nominees were considered before considering the nominees for appointment to the PHC and observed that when CJP was reaching the age of superannuation in the next few weeks, six nominees should not have been proposed for the appointment as the high court judges.

Justice Isa has already written a number of letters to CJP and JCP members highlighting that public confidence will erodes if the concerns are not addressed especially when there is a hint of arbitrariness, which undermines the credibility of the judiciary.

Meanwhile, the PBC has reminded lawyers about the Jan 3 decision of the joint meeting of the representatives of bar councils and bar associations and requested them to observe a complete strike on Thursday by not appearing in any court to protest the elevation of a junior Lahore High Court judge to the Supreme Court in violation of seniority principle and Al-Jehad Trust Case.

The Sindh Bar Council also announced a full-day strike and informed advocates of all bars throughout the province not to attend the court proceedings on Jan 6.

Published in Dawn, January 6th, 2022

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