ISLAMABAD: The Judicial Commission (JC) postponed deliberation on nomination of two ad hoc and one acting judges in the Supreme Court to complete the composition of a bench that will hear an appeal, whenever filed, against slapping the prime minister with contempt.
Headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, the 10-member commission deferred the deliberations for which the session was called after it transpired that raising the matter before time, especially when the appeal on part of the prime minister has not been filed, would be inappropriate.
Law Minister Farooq H. Naek and Attorney General Irfan Qadir also attended the meeting.
Discussions during a meeting between the chief justice and representatives of bar councils and associations, led by Pakistan Bar Council Vice-Chairman Akhtar Hussain, prior to the JC meeting appeared to be a reason for reaching the conclusion.
Speaking at the inauguration of a new building of the Balochistan High Court’s Sibi bench on May 1, the chief justice had said two ad hoc and one acting judges would have to be appointed to ensure that the prime minister’s appeal was heard by a nine-member larger bench against the verdict given by seven judges.
According to an informed source, the proposal for appointments contains the names of Justice (retd) Mahmood Akhtar Shahid Siddiqui and Justice (retd) Ghulam Rabbani as ad hoc judges while that of Justice Umar Atta Bandial, a sitting judge of the Lahore High Court, as acting judge of the apex court.
Justice Shahid Siddiqui retired as SC judge on Oct 13 last year and Justice Ghulam Rabbani as ad hoc judge on Oct 19.
The proposal, however, drew an instant reaction from lawyers who adopted a strongly-worded resolution at a meeting in Lahore on May 5 rejecting the suggestion, especially when a permanent post of a judge has been vacant in the Supreme Court for the past several months. The resolution suggested filling of the permanent post to overcome the difficulty in meeting the requirement of quorum for the appeal.
Talking to reporters after his meeting with the chief justice, Akhtar Hussain reiterated the stand taken in the resolution and said the talk of constituting a bench for hearing the appeal was premature. The bench should be formed only after filing of the appeal.
Besides, he said, appointment of ad hoc judges had always been frowned upon by judgments of the Supreme Court itself and called for the appointment of a permanent chief election commissioner. He suggested that Justice Shakirullah Jan, who is acting as CEC, could return to the bench after nomination of another judge in his place who would not sit on the appeal bench.
Under the 19th Amendment, the chief justice can ask for appointment of any ad hoc judge under Article 182 of the Constitution, but only after consultation with the Judicial Commission constituted under the 18th Amendment. However, an approval by an eight-member Parliamentary Committee, as required under the 18th Amendment, is not necessary in this case.