President Alvi accepts resignation of Justice Ijazul Ahsan

Published January 12, 2024
A photo of Supreme Court Justice Ijazul Ahsan. — Supreme Court website
A photo of Supreme Court Justice Ijazul Ahsan. — Supreme Court website

President Dr Arif Alvi on Friday accepted the resignation of Supreme Court’s Justice Ijazul Ahsan, who had abruptly opted to leave the top court a day earlier following the departure of his colleague Justice Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi.

According to a press release issued by the President House today, Justice Ahsan had resigned under Articles 179 and 206(a) of the Constitution.

It added that the president accepted his resignation on the advice of Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar.

In his one-page resignation letter sent to the president on Thursday, Justice Ahsan had described his time in the apex court as an “honour and privilege” but added that “I no longer wish to continue as a judge of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.” The letter did not mention a reason for the resignation.

Justice Ahsan was slated to be the next chief justice of Pakistan (CJP) after CJP Qazi Faez Isa. His abrupt resignation will benefit the next senior judge, Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, since he will become the next chief justice soon after the retirement of CJP Isa on Oct 25, 2024. Otherwise, Justice Shah was expected to hold the coveted office from Aug 3, 2025.

Justice Shah now also replaces Justice Ahsan on the Supreme Judicial Council, as well as the three-member special committee in charge of bench formation.

After the resignation of Justice Ahsan, the strength of the Supreme Court has been reduced to 14 out of the available 16 judges, against a sancti­oned strength of 17.

On Thursday, the president had accepted the resignation of Justice Naqvi, who is facing allegations of misconduct.

Road to resignation

Justice Ahsan was allegedly embroiled in a controversy of hearing a case of his former client, M/s BNP (Private) Limited relating to the One Constitution building and extending relief to them.

Though the resignation letter did not divulge many details, legal experts believed that the surprise departure of Justice Naqvi, who Justice Ahsan had gone the extra mile to defend before the Supreme Judicial Council, had left him red-faced.

Recently, Justice Ahsan had written a long note to the SJC where he said that the SJC proceedings against Justice Naqvi were being conducted in haste contrary to the established norms.

This note was also mentioned by CJP Isa during SJC proceedings on Thursday, who said that one of the members — an obvious reference to Justice Ahsan — had written a long note disagreeing with what was happening in the council.

“The judge wrote that the proceedings were being conducted in haste and contrary to the established norms, but nobody informed us what established norm the council should have followed,” the CJP quipped.

When the SJC commenced its proceedings on Thursday, it comprised four members. Later, the council began its proceedings with Justice Shah replacing Justice Ahsan. The council stated that if a judge “resigns before the initiation of council proceedings, it was a different ball game than the judge who resigned after the issuance of the show-cause notice”.

Differences between CJP and Ahsan

After Justice Isa became the CJP, differences started to surface between the him and Justice Ahsan, with the latter being dubbed by his detractors as a part of the so-called ‘Bandial group’.

On Dec 12, 2023, CJP Isa, in response to the objections raised by Justice Ahsan to the working of the three-judge committee that fixes cases before different benches, had emphasised that the primary and first responsibility of a judge was to attend judicial work.

In his response, Justice Isa also questioned the work ethic of Justice Ahsan, saying: “We are paid to work six days, not four and a half days”.

After the full court proceedings to decide challenges to the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Act 2023, Justice Ahsan was never seen sitting on any bench headed by the chief justice.

The last significant judgement by Justice Ahsan pertained to the military courts, in which a five-member bench in a unanimous verdict declared the trial of 103 civilians allegedly involved in the May 9 violence against the Constitution.

Justice Ahsan had also taken issue with two special benches formed by the special committee, of which he was a part, to hear intra-court appeals (ICA) in the military court case and the Justice Naqvi case.

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