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PESHAWAR, Jan 21: The president appointed Justice Muhammad Raza Khan as the Peshawar High Court’s Chief Justice on Monday. The newly appointed chief justice, who has also been serving as federal law secretary, took oath of his office Monday evening at the Governor’s House here.

NWFP Governor Owais Ahmad Ghani administered oath to Justice Muhammad Raza Khan under the 1973 Constitution of Pakistan.

The notification regarding the appointment of Justice Raza Khan was issued by the law, Justice and Human Rights Division, Islamabad.

The post of the chief justice had fallen vacant after the death of the then Chief Justice Tallat Qayyum Qureshi, who expired due to cardiac ailment on Friday last. Justice Khan has presently been the most senior judge of the high court.

Justice Khan would serve as the chief justice for only six-and-a-half months as he will attain superannuation on Aug 7, 2008. He was born on Aug 8, 1946.

The newly appointed chief justice belonged to the judicial cadre and at the time of his initial appointment as additional judge of the high court on Jan 3, 2005, he was serving on deputation as joint secretary in the law, human rights and justice division at Islamabad. A year later he was appointed as permanent judge of the high court on Jan 3, 2006, by General (retd) Pervez Musharraf.

The proclamation of emergency of 2007 proved to be a blessing in disguise for Justice Raza Khan as at that time he was at serial No. 9 on the seniority list of judges. Under normal circumstances he would never have become the Chief justice as all the four deposed judges of the high court- Chief Justice Tariq Pervez Khan, Justice Shahjehan Khan, Justice Ijaz Afzal Khan and Justice Dost Muhammad Khan- were senior to him but they had declined to take fresh oath under the PCO.

Two other judges senior to him - Justice Ijazul Hassan and Justice Qaim Jan Khan - who had taken oath under the PCO were elevated to the Supreme Court as all the three judges in the Supreme Court from NWFP had declined to take oath under the PCO. Another judge senior to him, Justice Salim Khan, had retired on Dec 31, 2007.

In the history of the Peshawar High Court, created in 1970, Justice Khan is the only judge who has been appointed as Chief Justice after serving for a brief stint of two years as permanent judge.

Following the appointment of the then federal law secretary, Justice (Retd) Mian Muhammad Ajmal as caretaker provincial minister, Justice Raza Khan, was also appointed on the said post few months ago.

Presently, out of the sanctioned strength of 15 judges 11 have been functioning in the high court. Another judge, Justice Raj Muhammad Khan would also retire this year on May 14.

After Justice Raza Khan, the most senior judge is Justice Jehanzeb Raheem whose retirement is due on March 9, 2014.

Meanwhile, as the notification of Justice Khan’s appointment as chief justice was issued in the afternoon, therefore, no bench could function on Monday.

It is learnt that a single-bench had started hearing cases in the morning, but when the said judge was informed that without a chief justice high court could not function he retired to his chamber.

Throughout the day the high court remained in grip of speculations due to delay in the issuance of the said notification. Some of the lawyers believed that as President Pervez Musharraf had gone abroad on official visit of European Countries, therefore, in his absence the acting president had no constitutional authority to appoint a chief justice.