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Judicial Commission puts extension case on hold

February 19, 2011

"The commission was expected to recommend a rare second one-year extension for veteran judge Khalilur Rehman Ramday." — File Photo

ISLAMABAD: Apparently responding to criticism of an earlier Supreme Court move, the Judicial Commission (JC) on Saturday held back from recommending extension in service for two retired judges of the apex court as its ad hoc judges, legal sources said. The commission was expected to recommend a rare second one-year extension for veteran judge Khalilur Rehman Ramday, who retired on Thursday, and a two-year first extension to Justice Rehmat Hussain Jafferi, who retired in November, as ad hoc judges. A full court meeting, chaired by Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, had recommended the extensions.

But that did not happen when the commission, headed by the chief justice, met on Saturday, in the wake of criticism of the Supreme Court’s recommendation by the lawyers’ community and the media opposed to ad hoc appointments.

There was no immediate official word about the proceedings, but one legal source said the matter was put off due to an absence of consensus at the meeting. There was no firm indication whether or not the issue would be taken up at a subsequent meeting of the commission whose recommendation about ad hoc judges must be approved by the president and about additional judges by a bipartisan parliamentary committee.

However, the commission unanimously approved a further one-year extension of service of six additional judges of the Sindh High Court whose tenures ended on Friday, dropping the names of three other additional judges of the same court.

The decision to defer the thorny issue of ad hoc judges came against the backdrop of sharp reaction shown by the bar. Before the JC’s meeting, Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) vice-chairman Latif Afridi and Supreme Court Bar Association president Asma Jehangir met the chief justice on Friday to convey the concern of the legal fraternity over the proposal to re-induct two retired judges of the apex court on ad hoc basis.

Adverse comments on the issue also appeared in newspaper editorials.

Justice Ramday’s absence from the court is likely to evoke mixed feelings in the bar as some of them would not mind his reappointment because of his standing in the judiciary, while others opposing such a course because of their opposition to ad hocism. Justice Ramday has been the longest serving judge in Pakistan after his induction as judge into the Lahore High Court in 1988 by then president Ghulam Ishaq Khan soon after the mysterious death of former president Ziaul Haq in a plane crash. He was elevated to the Supreme Court in 2002.

Last year also Justice Ramday’s appointment as ad hoc judge for one year had created a stir in the country, leading to a tussle between the executive and the judiciary. But the standoff eventually ended after a rare meeting between Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and the chief justice. The prime minister had surprisingly reached a farewell dinner hosted in honour of Justice Ramday where he invited the chief justice for a meeting the next day where the demand for appointment of Justice Ramday was accepted. Earlier, a summary on the subject had been turned down by President Asif Ali Zardari.

The six additional judges of the Sindh High Court whose tenures have been extended for one year each are: Justices Imam Bux Baloch, Nisar Muhammad Shaikh, Muhammad Tasnim, Syed Hasan Azhar Rizvi, Salman Hamid and Muhammad Ali Mazhar.

The three dropped additional judges are: justices Abdul Hadi Khoso, Zahid Hamid and Syed Zakir Hussain.

The commission’s recommendation about six additional judges, according to legal sources, shows that none of them was considered for permanent appointment.

In a related development, a high-level meeting, presided over by the Supreme Court registrar, reviewed the security arrangements.

The meeting was attended by additional interior secretary, director general of Crisis Management Cell in the Ministry of Interior, DIGs security and operations of Islamabad police, Islamabad deputy commissioner and SP security of the Supreme Court building.

The meeting decided that security cameras would cover the proceedings in Courtroom No 1 when a seven-judge bench would resume hearing on intra-court appeals of judges facing contempt charges for disobeying its Nov 3, 2007, order not to take oath under the Provisional Constitution Order.

The entry into courtrooms No 1 and 5 will be regulated through special passes while the SP security would ensure that extra jammers are arranged through special branch.