LAHORE: The Supreme Court has been requested to regulate the discretionary powers of all provincial high courts’ chief justices to curb the alleged misuse of authority in the judiciary.

“The outgoing chief justices often misuse their discretionary powers like royalty,” says a petition filed by a lawyer in the wake of alleged dozens of decisions made by Justice Muhammad Ameer Bhatti, the former chief justice of the Lahore High Court, during the last 30 days of his tenure.

The federal government, the Ministry of Law, and all provincial high courts through their registrars have been made respondents in the petition. Petitioner Mian Dawood says the former chief justice approved illegal increments for hundreds of employees of the LHC in the name of good performance.

He said from July 6, 2021, onwards, two illegal advance increments were given to the officials of the LHC. No chief justice has ever given such increments to the staff, including the registrar, for a period of over one year in judicial history, the lawyer claims. He pointed out that the former chief justice granted four-year paid educational leave to the reader (the court associate) of his court.

He said the reader’s spouse, who is a senior civil judge, was also extended the same favor without any record of university enrollment or law department requisition. The petitioner alleged that over 50 notifications were issued in a day to end the penalties of as many employees of the LHC.

He argued that withdrawing any penalty under the discretionary powers is tantamount to disbanding the service tribunals established under the law. He said that the former chief justice not only withdrew the penalties of two deputy registrars of the LHC but also granted them advance increments and promotions.

He said the former chief justice issued most of the notifications a day before his retirement on March 6. He said the discretionary powers should not be exercised by an individual (chief justice) rather administrative committees of the high courts be given the powers. He asked the apex court to regulate the discretionary powers of all high courts’ chief justices and set aside the notifications issued by the former chief justice of the LHC by ‘misusing’ his discretion.

Published in Dawn, April 20th, 2024

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