LAHORE  - Lawyers on Thursday voiced reservations over judicial commission’s procedure for appointment of judges in superior courts, and demanded their elected representatives be given representation in the body too.

The demand came at a Lahore High Court Bar Association seminar titled, “Deconstructing Article 175-A of Constitution for Appointment of Judges in Superior Judiciary”. Pakistan Bar Council Vice-Chairman Qalb-e-Hasan, former Supreme Court Bar Association chief Asma Jahangir, Lahore High Court Bar Association President Abid Saqi and ANP Secretary General Ahsan Wyne addressed the seminar.

Adopting a resolution presented by LHCBA chief Abid Saqi, the lawyers posed no confidence in the procedure set for elevation of judges. The resolution said that “the LHCBA expresses dismay over constitution and working of judicial commission. It is heavily dominated by judges and they remain the sole decision makers in appointment of judges. Further Article 175-A (4) granting the commission powers to make rules regulating to its procedure has been misinterpreted as the rules made to regulate procedure has given the sole discretionary powers to the chief justice of Pakistan to nominate any name which is presented to the Judicial Commission. In practice even chief justices of the high courts are subject to the choices made by the chief justice of Pakistan”. 

It further said “the LHCBA deeply regrets that the judiciary has taken away substantive powers of nominating names of candidates to the exclusion of all other members. The law only gives the commission powers to make rules regulating its procedure. In the garb of procedure all non-judge members are excluded from recommending any name for elevation to judiciary.”  “In reality the chief justice of Pakistan alone decides which name to put forward and get support from other judges by using his seniority as undue influence upon all judges. Non-judge members and bar representatives have denounced this practice and called for amending the rules but so far this genuine demand has not been considered,” added the resolution.

It further said that “more disturbing is the manner in which Supreme Court ruling has reduced function of the parliamentary committee on judges appointment to virtually a rubber stamp”.

The LHCBA is disappointed at the very low level of human material that is being elevated to the bench. It will affect the justice system of the country for decades to come. This will constantly keep the democratic process crippled. The LHCBA demands that the rules of the judicial commission may forthwith be amended so that a consensus is reached.

The LHCBA calls upon the parliamentary committee to jolt itself out of the grip of fear from other institutions and assert its constitutional obligations in screening the names nominated to the parliamentary committee.

The LHCBA demands that the parliament amend article 175 (A) so that elevation of judges is carried out in a transparent manner so that merit remains the sole criteria for elevation to the bench.  Competence and integrity are central qualities of any judge. Regrettably these two qualities are acutely scarce in today’s judiciary.

Article 175-A should include presidents of the Supreme Court Bar Association and High Court Bar Associations in the JC. All members of the JC should with consensus nominate a former judge to the JC. All members of the JC may initiate names for appointment to the judiciary.

The LHCBA warns that the present procedure is only perpetuating mediocrity and creating cartels in the judiciary. Justice will suffer and the system of judiciary will gradually lose all respect if the present trend is not revised, the resolution concluded.