The Supreme Court Bar Association on Friday “hailed the principled stand” of majority members of the Judicial Commission of Pakistan for disapproving the nominations of judges for elevation to the top court proposed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial during a meeting of the body on Thursday.

The JCP, a day ago, had opposed — by a majority of five to four — a set of four names proposed by CJP Bandial for elevation to the Supreme Court.

In a statement after the meeting, the Supreme Court had said that the names of all five judges proposed were considered by the JCP and, after detailed discussion, the chairman proposed that the meeting be deferred to enable the CJP to place additional information and data about those already proposed, and if he deems it appropriate, add more names to the list of for consideration by the JCP.

Hailing the JCP decision in a press release issued today, SCBA President Ahsan Bhoon said the elevation of judges should preferably be made on the basis of seniority and thereafter other credentials of the candidate could also be considered, adding “the relevant stakeholder i.e. Parliament must undertake meaningful legislation in this regard”.

Bhoon further said that “undoubtedly, competency, honesty and proficiency are imperative and equally important for elevations to the apex court; however discouraging the principle of seniority is also equally disrespectful to other senior Judges”.

He was of the view that the “continuous disregard of seniority principle was constantly undermining the integrity of the entire judicial system and would also be a discriminatory practice for the Judges who had not only served the judiciary to the hilt but also deserve elevation”.

The SCBA president hailed the “adamant stance” being preferred by senior puisne judge Justice Qazi Faez Isa, and Justice Sardar Tariq Masood as well as SCBA representatives Justice retired Sarmad Jalal Osmani, and Akhtar Hussain who voted against the four nominations. He also had words of praise for Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar and Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf.

The meeting

The JCP meeting was called to consider for elevation to the Supreme Court the names of Chief Justice Qaiser Rasheed Khan of the PHC, Justice Shahid Waheed of the Lahore High Court; Justice Syed Hasan Azhar Rizvi, Justice Muhammad Shafi Siddiqui and Justice Naimatullah Phulpoto of the Sindh High Court (SHC).

It was attended by seven members of JCP in-person while Justice Isa and Attorney General for Pakistan Ashtar Ausaf had attended via Zoom from Spain and USA, respectively.

With the disapproval of the four names, the meeting had also decided to consider the case of the Peshawar High Court chief justice later.

In the case of the PHC CJ, it was decided that since he was neither the most senior chief justice, nor the most senior high court judge in the country, his name could be considered if it was placed alongside the CJs of other high courts and most senior judges.

The participants had concluded that the Constitution did not permit appointments to “anticipated” vacancies.

Soon after the meeting, Justice Isa had written a letter to the CJP and other members of the commission in which he recalled how he, and four other members, had rejected the names of three junior judges of the Sindh High Court and one junior judge of the Lahore High Court.

Justice Isa’s letter had said Chief Justice Umar Bandial did not “dictate the decisions and left the meeting quite abruptly”, followed by Justice Ijazul Ahsan. Therefore, it had now fallen to the acting secretary to draw up the minutes of the decisions taken at the JCP meeting.

“The eyes of the nation are transfixed on JCP and they have constitutional right to know what was decided. Therefore, the acting secretary should immediately release this decision to the media to end unnecessary speculation and misreporting as the meeting was held behind closed doors.

“It is expected that the minutes will accurately reflect all that transpired,” Justice Isa’s letter had said.

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