KARACHI, May 30: Governor Dr Ishratul Ibad Khan called on Chief Justice Sabihuddin Ahmed of the Sindh High Court on Wednesday morning in what is being seen by observers as a gubernatorial attempt at fence-mending.
The executive-judiciary relations have come under considerable strain by the incidents of May 12, the contempt proceedings instituted by lawyers against top government officials, and ill-advised remarks attributed to Sindh Chief Minister Dr Arbab Ghulam Rahim about the suo motu proceedings initiated by the SHC into the blockade of court premises and maltreatment of lawyers.
Taking notice of the incidents, a full court meeting of the SHC decided on May 21 that the chief justice would not henceforth officiate as provincial governor in the incumbent’s absence.
An official press release described the half-hour “informal and cordial meeting” as continuation of the contacts being made by the governor to clear the air in the aftermath of the May 12 incidents. Justices Rahmat Hussain Jafferi and Amir Hani Muslim, Sindh High Court Bar Association President Abrar Hasan, Advocate-General Anwar Mansoor Khan and Additional Advocate-General Qazi Khalid Ali were also present at the meeting.
The estrangement between the executive and judicial organs was reflected in the press briefing given by the SHCBA president after the meeting. While the governor’s spokesman had to deny that he was “summoned” by the court, Mr Hasan said the CJ and judges earlier turned down an invitation to the Governor’s House.
He said the governor had expressed his desire to meet the judges and CJ on Tuesday evening but was told that he would be welcome to see them in the high court. The CJ asked the SHCBA chief to attend the meeting at 10.30am on Wednesday.
A full court meeting was held earlier in the day and it decided that the judges conducting the suo motu proceedings and contempt case hearing would not meet the governor. There would be no discussion on the May 12 incidents or related matters, the full court decided, according to Mr Hasan. The subsequent meeting was held in accordance with the full court decision, he said. Among the judges who stayed away were the senior puisne judge, Justice Sarmad Jalal Osmany, and seven other judges seized of the suo motu and contempt matters.
According to AAG Qazi Khalid, who accompanied the governor along with the AG, among the topics generally discussed were grant of autonomous status to the Sindh Judicial Academy and other matters pertaining to legal education. The construction of additional building blocks in the SHC premises also came up for discussion briefly.
At his press conference later, the SHCBA chief appreciated the reported full court decision against the assumption of acting governor’s office by the chief justice. He said the decision had been taken in the interest of adjudication of cases but was welcome from another angle.