ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Bar Council’s (PBC) resolution adopted on Friday opposing the elevation of the Sindh High Court’s chief justice (CJ) to the Supreme Court has created a stir, with one of its members from the province calling the development a conspiracy like the one against a former chief justice of Pakistan (CJP) hailing from Sindh.

Mohammad Yousuf Leghari, who has also served as the PBC’s representative in the Judicial Commission of Pakistan — a constitutional body that appoints superior court judges, told Dawn on Saturday that he had written a two-page letter to newly elected PBC Vice Chairman Hafeezur Rehman Chaudhry and expressed regret about the passage of the resolution in his absence, as he was on leave.

“I have gone through the agenda of the meeting of Jan 21 (Friday) and there was no such item to be considered,” the letter said, adding that he felt the resolution was a conspiracy that resembled the one hatched against former CJP Sajjad Ali Shah, who was restrained from acting as the top judge by the Supreme Court.

Leghari terms council’s resolution a conspiracy

On Friday, soon after the election of the PBC vice chairman, the house adopted a resolution and issued a press release to the media opposing any move to elevate SHC Chief Justice Ahmed Ali M Shaikh to the Supreme Court until a pending case regarding alleged irregular appointment of paralegal staff in the high court as well as references against him before the Supreme Judicial Council under Article 209 of the Constitution were finalised.

The PBC resolution had stated that the principle of seniority for elevation of judges, supremacy of the Constitution, rule of law and independence of the judiciary must be followed, but this did not mean that a judge who is facing charges of misconduct or poor performance, specifically the SHC CJ, who through his registrar faced the serious allegations of appointments of paralegal staff in certain districts in Sindh under his supervision, be elevated.

The resolution drew criticism from the Sindh High Court Bar Association (SHCBA) and the Karachi Bar Association (KBA), which took strong exception to the statement in an emergency meeting held on Friday, claiming it was the personal view of the PBC VC and not the entire council.

An SHCBA-KBA joint resolution also rejected the allegations that the SHC CJ made any illegal appointments in the provincial judiciary. They also called upon all bars across Pakistan to condemn the purported PBC statement as well as a letter issued by the PBC Executive Committee chairman to CJP Gulzar Ahmed about the SHC chief justice.

The joint resolution recalled that it had taken a principled stand on the vilification campaign against Justice Qazi Faez Isa and will continue to stand by such independent-minded judges such as CJ Sheikh whose integrity was unimpeachable. It also called upon the PBC to reprimand its VC for “abusing his position of trust and for issuing an unauthorised press release”.

Now, PBC member Leghari in his two-page letter questioned if this was the way resolutions were passed against judges and claimed there were many complaints against certain high court judges, but such a resolution, allegedly based on personal likes and dislikes, would only open a Pandora’s Box.

It further said the press release issued by the council was contrary to the stand earlier adopted by the PBC, Sindh Bar Council and SHCBA whereby they had demanded elevation of the SHC CJ due to his seniority.

It was also contrary to the decisions taken in a meeting of the PBC held on Nov 24, 2021 where the VC’s objections were deliberated, he wrote, adding it was not the domain of the council’s executive committee to write a letter to the CJP against the SHC CJ on the request of one of the committee members, Riazat Ali Sahar.

After a long discussion, the matter was referred back to the executive committee for a fresh decision and, as far as he knew, no such meeting of the committee was held to reconsider the matter, Mr Leghari recalled in his letter.

The letter also questioned that when the matter was sub judice before the Supreme Court, how can the apex body of the legal fraternity say the judge misbehaved with lawyers. Besides, the SHCBA had already declared that SHC CJ was an honest, independent and competent judge. In his letter, Leghari also backed the stand taken by the SHCBA and KBA in their joint resolution issued on Friday.

Published in Dawn, January 23rd, 2022

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