SHCBA moves SC for structuring judicial appointment criteria

Jamal Khurshid
Sunday, Nov 28, 2021

KARACHI: The Sindh High Court Bar Association on Saturday filed a petition in the Supreme Court of Pakistan, seeking direction to Judicial Commission of Pakistan to frame comprehensive and detailed rules and guidelines to structure the process of appointment of judges for superior courts.

The SHCBA President Salahuddin Ahmed and Secretary Mohammad Omer Soomro submitted in the petition that seniority principle for elevation of judges of high courts to the Supreme Court had been ignored for the last three years and five out of seven judges elevated to the SC were not the senior-most judges of the high courts.

They submitted that the recent trend for ignoring the seniority principle for elevation of judges in the Supreme Court has led to serious concern and misgivings in the legal fraternity, within the judiciary and even inside the Judicial Commission and parliamentary committee.

They said that the process of judicial appointments in the apex court was not only fair, objective and transparent and this can only be effected by introducing objective criteria for such appointments and a fair and transparent process of appointments.

They submitted that departure from the seniority principle for elevation of high court judges to the Supreme Court should only be permitted if there were defined rules and guidelines setting out parameters and criteria for such appointments which rule out arbitrariness.

They submitted that Article 175-A envisages the Judicial Commission as a collective composite and collegial body, which does not envisage primacy of substantive functions to any one person within the commission.

The rule 3 of the JCP restricts the power to initiate nomination to the CJP for vacancy in the SC and even if a majority of Judicial Commission has agreed that a particular person was most suitable for appointment to a particular vacancy, it could do nothing unless the concerned CJ decides to nominate him, which was also contrary to the scheme and intention of Article 175-A.

They said that a shortlist of prospective candidates for appointment should be put up for comparison by the Judicial Commission rather than simply nominating one person for a post, so that the commission is able to assess the best possible candidate.

They said that retention of public confidence in the judiciary and in particular the process of judicial appointments is essential for the meaningful realization of fundamental right of access to justice and fulfillment of articles 10-A, 37(d), and 175-A of the Constitution.

The court was requested to direct the Judicial Commission to invite all relevant stakeholders, including judges, senior lawyers and parliamentary committee members for their suggestions to structure the process of judicial appointments to the superior court and make them transparent and more objective.

They also sought framing of comprehensive rules for the Judicial Commission for appointment of judges in superior courts and requested the court to strike down the rule 3 of the JCP.