ISLAMABAD: Noted constitutional expert Barrister Wasim Sajjad is preparing the presidential reference on judges’ appointment issue to be filed in the Supreme Court by Friday, raising several leading questions.
He confirmed that he was giving final touches to the reference on behalf of the federal government to be submitted to the court by Dec.27, when the two-week deadline given by Justice Khilji Arif Hussain led four-member bench to file it would expire.
A key question will relate to the powers of the president of Pakistan in matters of determining seniority of judges. Another question will pertain to the powers of the Judicial Commission (JC) chaired by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and the 8-member bipartisan Parliamentary Committee (PC) on judges’ nomination.
Can the JC bypass the seniority of a judge, determined by the relevant authority under the decades old principles and rules and regulations will be yet another question.
Can a junior high court judge be called to attend a JC meeting if the senior is not available for the time being for any reason?
The reference will also raise whether or not the Supreme Court judges, who, being members of the JC, were present in its specific meeting that made the recommendation for appointment of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) chief justice, should hear the present presidential reference.
Or when on Nov 23 the four-member bench was hearing a petition agitating non-issuance of notifications by the president to confirm Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui as permanent IHC judge and extend the tenure of additional IHC judge Noor ul Haq Qureshi by six month as recommended by the JC and PC, Attorney General Irfan Qadir disclosed that the president has decided to file a reference to seek the Supreme Court opinion on the issue.
Also in question is the recommendation of the JC and PC for elevation of Justice Kansi as the IHC chief justice. The president held the view that Justice Riaz Ahmed should have been nominated as the IHC chief because he was the senior most in his high court after the elevation of its Chief Justice Iqbal Hameedur Rehman to the Supreme Court.
As per the decision of any high court chief justice on the seniority of justices, these judges sit in the court in this order, and the senior presides over the bench comprising juniors.