THE reappointment of the eight Sindh High Court and four Lahore High Court judges in quick succession, not only runs counter to the spirit of the Bhurban Declaration, but is also tantamount to validating the unconstitutional steps taken by General Musharraf on November 3, 2007. Five of the 10 deposed LHC judges were due to be sworn in but Justice Ijaz Ahmad Chaudhry refused to take oath at the last moment on the plea that he was still a constitutional judge and the government has conceded the fact by releasing to him and his other colleagues their salaries for the last seven months. The remaining deposed judges are also reportedly being approached for acceptance reappointment and there are indications that five Supreme Court judges are prepared to accept the offer after the swearing in of two of the four Peshawar High Court judges expected in the next few days. The Law Ministry has meanwhile notified that the reappointed judges will retain their original seniority as it stood on November 2, and will also be entitled to pension benefits on the basis of their original appointment. Through a separate notification Acting President Mohammadmian Soomro has also increased the strength of the LHC from 50 to 60 judges under Article 192 of the Constitution. The move to reappoint judges is being resented by the legal fraternity, which has decided to stage a sit-in outside Parliament House on September 4. Mr Aitzaz Ahsan has reminded the judges taking fresh oath that it was the lawyers' movement that led to the impartial polls on February 18, the signing of the Murree Accord and the resignation of General Musharraf. Justice (retd) Tariq Mehmood also got it right when he pointed out that 'fresh oaths' would weaken the lawyers movement. But what is more serious is his observation that it would drive a wedge between the sitting judges and those who are being brought back. The PPP leadership keeps insisting that, by reappointing the deposed judges, it is fulfilling its commitment to restore the judiciary to its November 2 status, but it should not ignore the fact that it had promised to do so through an executive order as enunciated in the Murree Accord signed by the two mainstream parties. The fact remains that by administering fresh oaths to the deposed judges it is only validating the November 3 action, which it had been declaring illegal and unconstitutional before assuming power in March. It bears repeating to those running the current democratic dispensation that their pick-and-choose policy will neither augur well for the judiciary nor restrain it from accepting unlawful commands from the executive. The judiciary, on its part, must devise a code of ethics in order to exercise independence.