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Justice Isa seeks JCP meeting to fill vacancies of SC

ISLAMABAD: Justice Qazi Faez Isa, the senior puisne judge of the Supreme Court, has requested a long-overdue meeting of the Judicial Commission of Pakistan (JCP) and offered the names of chief justices of Sindh and Pesh­awar high courts to fill two vacancies of the Supreme Court.

The top court is now operating with 15 justices, including Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial, as opposed to the sanctioned strength of 17.

In a letter to all JCP members, Justice Isa advised that the vacancies be filled soon and that the names of the judges to be nominated be submitted ahead of time while keeping the concept of seniority in mind.

For the appointment, Justice Isa proposed SHC CJ Ahmed Ali M. Shaikh and PHC CJ Musarrat Hilali.

The JCP — a constitutional body that recommends the elevation of judges to superior courts — last met in October 2022, when three judges were elevated to the apex court, despite a deadlock over ignoring the seniority principle in selecting judges for their elevation to the apex court.

According to bar councils, raising junior judges to the highest court demoralizes veteran judges and harms judicial work, arguing that the practice violates the concept of seniority established in the Al-Jehad case or the judges’ case.

By a majority vote of five to four in August 2022, the JCP invited Justice Shaikh to serve as an ad hoc SC judge for one year if he consented. However, the SHC CJ declined to attend the SC sitting as an ad hoc judge twice and instead expressed a desire to be appointed or elevated to the position of permanent judge.

The Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) then opposed the majority decision to appoint the chief justice of the SHC as an ad hoc judge of the Supreme Court (SC), claiming that such an appointment violated Article 182 of the Constitution, which stated that only a retired judge could be appointed as an ad hoc judge.

On April 2, Justice Hilali took the oath of office as PHC Chief Justice. She made many steps to implement judicial reforms in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, including establishing separate benches for commercial and tax issues, criminal concerns, service matters, civil and family cases, and directing that trials be completed within a certain time frame.

Senior counsel Akhtar Hussain, who represents the PBC on the JCP, told the press that he would write to CJP Bandial to invite him to convene a meeting of the JCP rules-making committee to implement appropriate amendments to the relevant rules governing the appointment of judges in the superior courts.

He believed that a JCP meeting could not be called until the JCP Rules, 2010, were amended.

The previous rules committee meeting, held in March 2022, was inconclusive, although it was determined to meet again after reviewing the recommendations advocated by lawyers’ representatives.

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