CJP bemoans govt ‘reaction’ that derailed JCP sitting

Published September 13, 2022
Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial (C) addresses the opening ceremony of the new judicial year 2022-23 in Islamabad on Monday. — PID website
Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial (C) addresses the opening ceremony of the new judicial year 2022-23 in Islamabad on Monday. — PID website

• Links deadlock at judicial body meeting with adverse judgement in Punjab CM election case
• Wonders whether such a reaction reflects ‘any respect for the rule of law’ on government’s part
• Expresses surprise over bar’s ‘partisan request’ echoing a political party’s stance

ISLAMABAD: In an unusually candid address, Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial aired his grievance with the ruling coalition on Monday, questioning whether an adverse decision from the court justified what he called the government’s ‘unprecedented’ step to refuse support for judges proposed by him before the Judicial Commission of Pakistan (JCP).

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the new judicial year 2022-23, the CJP mentioned the July 26 apex court decision, which declared Chaudhry Parvez Elahi as the chief minister of Punjab in the July 22 run-off poll, observing that the displeasure of the federal government on this decision became evident two days later at the JCP meeting on July 28.

Convened to consider five judges for elevation, the CJP said that “for the first time since JCP was constituted thr­o­ugh the... 18th Amendment, the representatives of the federal government in the commission either deferred or chose not to support the candidates proposed by its chairman (CJP). As a result, the meeting had to be adjourned.”

Does this reflect any respect for the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary, he asked, adding: “I simply leave the matter there.”

CJP Bandial also cautioned that the apex court was committed to defending the Constitution, its commands and directions to the state and to the people, the enforcement of fundamental rights and for the lawful functioning of all the institutions.

“The court will not hesitate to act if the Constitution or the constitutional institutions are undermined, violated or attacked,” he warned, emphasising that it was aware that the country was presently facing serious economic and political challenges.

Monday’s ceremony was held to take stock of the judiciary’s performance in the past year and formulate future policies for the advancement of justice and protection of fundamental rights.

Additional Attorney General (AAG) Chaudhry Aamir Rehman read out the speech of Attorney General for Pakistan Ashtar Ausaf whereas Pakistan Bar Council Vice Chairman Hafeezur Rehman Chaudhry and Supreme Court Bar Association President Muhammad Ahsan Bhoon also spoke on the occasion.

Referring to the Parvez Elahi case, CJP Bandial regretted how the decision prompted a sharp reaction from political quarters that were disappointed by it. However, as the guardians of the Constitution, the apex court and its judges exercised restraint and remained detached from such rhetoric.

“Nevertheless, it did surprise the court that during the hearing of the case the current and several past office-bearers of the Bar approached the bench with a request to constitute a full court on the urging of the leader of the political party that is also the principal member of the coalition in the federal government,” he recalled, adding it was done without any legal grounds.

“The request was unexpected because the Bar was pleading a partisan political cause without even being a party to the case,” he said, in a thinly veiled reference to the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan, which had joined the coalition partners in calling for the constitution of a full bench of the apex court to consider the matter of the Punjab CM’s run-off election.

Talking about the recent floods that had engulfed nearly a third of the country and displaced nearly 33 million people, the CJP said that apart from private contributions, SC judges had also voluntarily contributed an additional amount equivalent to three day’s salary, while the court staff had donated two day’s worth of their salaries to the relief effort.

However, despite generous donations from all quarters, the government faced a formidable task and unenviable obligation to steer the country towards rehabilitation and recovery. He also urged all political parties, their leaders, all decision makers and privileged members of society to set aside their differences and act in unity for public interest.

The CJP also recalled how from Feb 2 to Sept 9 the court had decided 14,943 cases, minimizing the backlog from 54,134.

Earlier, AAG Rehman on behalf of the AGP highlighted the dire need for an institutional dialogue to ensure that the federation pushed ahead with harmony between the constituent units.

The AGP’s statement also sought development of a consensus on articles 175A and 177 of the Constitution, adding the Supreme Court must be working at full strength to be able to shoulder its responsibilities for which there should be some structured criteria on the appointment of judges.

Published in Dawn, September 13th, 2022

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