ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial has emphasised that while elevating judges to high courts, the presence of a “particular expertise” among them, coupled with needs of the courts to which they are to be appointed should be kept in mind.

He made the observation during a meeting of the Judicial Commission of Pakistan’s Rules Committee which was held on March 9 and was also attended by Justice Maqbool Baqar, former Justice Sarmad Jalal Osmany, Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Khalid Jawed Khan and Pakistan Bar Council representative Akhtar Hussain.

During the meeting, Chief Justice Bandial highlighted the dearth of judges who had expertise in civil law in the Lahore High Court, adding that one of the two remaining experts on the bench would retire next year. A source said the chief justice also regretted that in the Sindh High Court, there was a dearth of judges having expertise in criminal law and that apart from a few of them, the rest all had expertise in corporate, constitutional or civil matters.

In the Supreme Court, he emphasised, three vacancies of judges would soon accrue, one of them “actual” and two “anticipated” ones. Being the chairman of the commission he would ask for a number of nominations per vacancy and with sufficient feedback the commission’s members would hopefully make informed decisions.

During the meeting Justice Osmany recalled the criteria evolved by the English for appointment of judges under which “a judge should be a gentleman first and a gentleman last and the rest will follow”. He/she should have the demeanour of a judge, which means they should possess the capacity to listen carefully to everyone and be polite to the lawyers.

Justice Osmany said the judge should know the law of the land because they would not be able to implement it unless they knew it thoroughly, adding the first criterion should be integrity coupled with competence.

As the demand for transparency was increasing, things should be put in writing, Justice Osmany suggested. He said that he does not agree with the proposal that there should be a written examination for judges as it was not a civil service appointment.

Justice Baqar was of the view that focus of the meeting should be on how to evaluate and assess different qualities so that criteria could be devised to rank the candidates, including the methodology based on some objective measurement. The real question, he observed, was how to apply these criteria. He asked whether there should be just one nomination for each vacant post and should the nomination come from the chief justice or also from other members, including representatives of the bar.

AGP Khan said if seniority was not an automatic criterion, “then certainly we need some criteria, and criteria could only exist in a comparative context. If there is only one name proposed, then it becomes very hard to compare, particularly when we are discussing appointments in the Supreme Court”, he said.

Published in Dawn, March 23rd, 2022

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