ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court again expressed displeasure on Monday over the government’s inability to fill the office of the Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP).

The position has been vacant since October following the resignation of Ashtar Ausaf Ali due to health reasons.

The issue cropped up again when a three-judge bench, headed by Justice Qazi Faez Isa, asked Deputy Attorney General (DAG) Ayaz Shaukat to assist it in a case related to the Customs department, but it turned out that the DAG was not well versed in the matter.

Furthermore, the DAG had no answer about reasons for delay in the appointment of an AGP.

This prompted Justice Isa to quip that it appeared the court had come up with a very difficult constitutional question.

The government had named Mansoor Usman Awan as the 37th AGP on Dec 23 after President Dr Arif Alvi approved its proposal.

But even an announcement from the President House was, seemingly, not enough to fill the position of the highest law officer of the land.

No notification was issued by the law ministry and the indecisiveness on the government’s part eventually forced Mansoor Awan to write to the prime minister expressing his inability to serve in the office.

Justice Isa observed during Monday’s hearing that keeping the AGP’s office vacant was a violation of the Constitution, wondering whether the government had entered into a bargain on the issue.

“Almost 5,500 lawyers have been enrolled as judge of the Supreme Court, but the government cannot pick one of them for appointment as AGP,” regretted Justice Isa.

The judge had ruled on Jan 13 that since the AGP’s post was a constitutional one, it cannot be left vacant because there was no mention of an acting AGP in the statute.

The law requires serving of a notice to the AGP under the Code of Civil Procedure (CCP), a three-page order written by Justice Isa had stated. Neither a DAG nor an assistant attorney general was a substitute for an AGP, the order said.

“There is no mention of an acting Attorney General in the Constitution,” the order said. “We may also assume that when a DAG or AAG attends court, he/she does so on instructions by the AGP.”

Published in Dawn, January 24th, 2023

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