LAHORE: The Lahore High Court on Friday granted three-week time to the Punjab government to fill the vacancies of judges at special courts, including accountability and anti-terrorism courts, in the province.

Earlier, the members/ministers of a government’s panel formed to appoint judges appeared before the court as being summoned the other day.

Advocate General of Punjab (AGP) Khalid Ishaq also accompanied Senior Provincial Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb, Law Minister Malik Sohaib Bharath and Finance Minister Mujtaba Shujaur Rehman.

The AGP told the court that a letter had been written to the LHC registrar after finalising names for the appointment of judges in the anti-terrorism courts of Lahore, Rawalpindi and Faisalabad.

He said as per the law, a panel of three judges for each court had been provided to the high court to select one.

Ms Aurangzeb stated that the government aimed to appoint judges in a transparent manner.

Chief Justice Malik Shahzad Ahmad Khan said why the government kept giving repeated undertakings to the court about the appointment of the judges.

He remarked, “Did the chief minister ever ask me for consultation?”

He said the court issued notices in the case and summoned the AGP several times.

“I have no interest in summoning you, if I had, I would have summoned the chief minister on the first day,” Chief Justice Khan told the ministers.

He said the court had great respect for politicians.

Explaining the position, Ms Aurangzeb said the Punjab government had formed a committee and requested the chief justice to provide a panel of judges from which appointments could be made.

The chief justice asked about the time frame for appointing judges in the ATCs and the deadlines for decisions to be made by the special courts.

Law Minister Bharath said cases under the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997 were required to be decided within seven days. He suggested that the government be given two or three names for each position so that one could be appointed as a judge.

The CJ questioned under what law he should provide a panel of names and observed if the appointments were made according to the law, the issue would not have reached this point.

He said the government should not make illegal demands. He said the supremacy of the law and the Constitution was important for the court.

The AGP sought more time to reconsider the appointments of the judges.

The chief justice ordered that the appointment of judges be made within three weeks and also summoned a progress report from the government’s committee by May 20.

Talking to the media, Ms Aurangzeb said her party always respected the courts. She said leaders of her party underwent unjust punishments but never attacked the courts or intimidated the judges.

She said the appointment process of the judges would be completed within the given time.

Published in Dawn, May 18th, 2024

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