The two major pillars of the judiciary, the bench and the bar, are drifting away from each other for the past few days, following differences over the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court that also led to protests by the legal fraternity.
It was a rare occasion that a farewell reception was not arranged in honour of retired Justice Mushir Alam, while lawyers boycotted the oath-taking ceremony of the newly-appointed ad hoc judge of the Supreme Court, Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar.
There have been controversies over the past few years, regarding the rules of the Judicial Commission of Pakistan (JCP) – the forum responsible for the nomination of judges for the superior judiciary.
Lawyers have demanded that the role of the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) should be given more prominence in the appointment of judges. They complained that the judges, who were members of the JCP, made decisions based on voting, therefore, the opinion of the lawyers was not being ignored.
In recent weeks, differences erupted between the lawyers and the higher judiciary over the appointment of Justice Mazhar of the SHC to the SC. At the SHC, Justice Mazhar was fifth on the seniority list.
Following the appointment of Justice Mazhar, the PBC called a nationwide strike, besides staging protests at all levels.
Even the PBC along with the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) boycotted the oath-taking ceremony of Justice Mazhar.
The lawyers also boycotted the farewell reception-dinner in honour of Justice Mushir Alam. Later the farewell reference for Justice Alam was also cancelled by the Supreme Court because of the prevailing coronavirus pandemic.
Besides, lawyers have also been protesting against the elevation of the SHC CJ Ahmad Ali Sheikh as an ad hoc Judge of the apex court without his consent.
The lawyers are holding a meeting on August 21 at the Sindh High Court Bar Association (SHCBA).
“No action is being taken by the Supreme Court to address the concerns of the lawyers,” PBC Vice
Chairman Khush Dil Khan told The Express Tribune. “Lawyers are not against any judge or against any institution, we want the decisions to be taken in accordance with the Constitution and the law,” he added.
“Lawyers from all over the country are of the view that the procedure for the appointment of judges in the Supreme Court should be clear.” He also went on to say that he would not accept any unfair decision and the protests would continue.
Khan’s views were supported by Ahmed Farooq Rana, the SCBA secretary general.
“There is no merit [stipulated] in the Constitution regarding the appointment of judges,” Rana told The Express Tribune.
He maintained that judges’ performance could neither be scrutinised, nor was the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) playing any active role for this purpose.
He added that if the procedure of appointment of judges to high courts was clear, “there would be no dispute over the elevation of judges to the SC”.