PESHAWAR, March 2: Six out of eight posts of judges of the Federal Shariat Court are lying vacant resulting in non-hearing of important cases.

The court is also without a permanent chief justice. The previous chief justice of the court, Justice Fazal Ilahi Khan had retired after completing his three years term two months back following which Justice Ijaz Yousaf was appointed acting chief justice.

Under the Federal Shariat Court rules a Shariat petition could only be heard by a bench of three judges or more, whereas presently only two judges have been functioning in the court.

Similarly, appeals against verdicts of the sessions court in cases of capital punishment and amputation of limbs could only be heard by a bench consisting of not less than three judges.

It is learnt that some cases of juvenile offenders sentenced to death by the trial courts are also pending before the Shariat court, but as the required number of judges are not available, therefore those cases could not be heard.

Under Article 203C, sub-clause 2 of the Constitution, the Shariat court shall consist of not more than eight Muslim judges including the chief justice, to be appointed by the President of Pakistan.

Three of the judges — Justice Fazal Ilahi Khan, Justice Ali Mohammad Baluch and Justice Sardar Muhammad Dogar — completed their three years term in January. Similarly, Justice Khan Riazuddin Khan completed his term last month. Now, only two judges, Justice Ijaz Yousaf and Justice Dr Fida Muhammad, are left in the Shariat court.

Legal circles are of the opinion that the government would appoint such judges in the Shariat court who could deliver favourable judgments in important Shariat petitions like the one pertaining to “Riba” pending before the court.

Chairman, Voice of Prisoners, Noor Alam Khan advocate claimed that there are various important cases pending in the Shariat court. He added that a petition challenging the Qisas and Diyat Law has been pending since 1997. Moreover, he added one of his case about death penalty to a juvenile offender in Peshawar was also pending in the court. He added that the delay in filling these vacancies had been creating doubts in mind of legal circles and even judges of the superior courts.

Mr Khan claimed that in past the Shariat court was used as a dumping place for the judges of the superior courts who were not favourable to the government. It was in the historic March 1996 verdict of the Supreme Court, he added, that the court ruled that no judge of the high court including its chief justice should be transferred to the Shariat court without his consent.

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