MUZAFFARABAD: The Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) High Court on Friday got six judges against its eight vacant posts.

A notification regarding the appointment of the new judges was issued by the AJK Law Department in accordance with an advice in their favour by the AJK council chairman – the prime minister of Pakistan.

The new judges are Sardar Mohammad Ejaz, Syed Shahid Bahar, Chaudhry Khalid Rasheed and Mohammad Habib Zia from the bar and district and sessions judges Sardar Liaqat Hussain and Mian Arif Hussain from the bench.

Mr Zia, 61, is the younger brother of AJK Prime Minister Sardar Abdul Qayyum Niazi.

According to the AJK constitution,judgesin the high court areappointedby the AJK president on the advice of the AJK council chairman and after consultations with the chief justices of the AJK’s supreme and high courts.

With a sanctioned strength of ninejudges, the AJKhighcourthad been functioning with only one judge – Chief Justice Sadaqat Hussain Raja - since May last year due to which the old and fresh petitions could not be taken up to the detriment of the lawyers and litigants alike.

Between Nov 2019 and July 2020, sixhigh courtjudges, one of them a sitting CJ,were sent packing by the AJK apexcourtthrough two separate but almost identical verdicts on account of some “technical mistakes” in their appointment process, leaving thehighcourtwith only threejudges.

Of them, Justice Azhar Saleem Babar retired on March 22 last year and Justice Shiraz Kiani died of brain haemorrhage on May 3 last year.

Over the past eight months, the legal fraternity across AJK had been up in arms about the “uncalled-for delay” in the appointments. In late November last year, legal community leaders had also threatened to stage a march on the federal capital to press for the much-needed inductions.

After Friday’s appointments, the AJK high court still has two vacantposts of judges.

Interestingly, of the new inductees, Mr Ejaz was among those five judges who were sent packing by the AJK apex court in July 2020, more than two years after their appointment in May2018 while Mr Bahar and Mr Khaild were among those lawyers who had challenged those appointments.

The new judges would be administered oath by CJ Sadaqat Hussain Raja in the high court building at 1pm on Saturday.

Published in Dawn, January 8th, 2022

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