Editorial : Additional judges - Thursday 28th April 2011

THE assent given by President Zardari to the extension in service of six additional judges of the Lahore and Sindh high courts should bring to a close at least that specific aspect of the long-running tussle between the Supreme Court and the political government. At one level, anything that marks a resolution of a dispute or helps lower the tension between the executive and the superior judiciary is a good thing and should be welcomed. Given the myriad challenges the state faces, sidestepping fresh crises is arguably almost as valuable as addressing existing ones. Nevertheless, the curious case of the six additional judges is instructive in that it lays down yet another marker about how the superior judiciary conceives of itself. Some background here is necessary. In January-February, the Judicial Commission of Pakistan (JC) convened to decide the future of additional judges of the Sindh and Lahore high courts whose one-year terms were coming to an end. Of the dozens of cases before it, the JC chose to release some judges while retaining many for a further one-year period. When the nominees for reappointment were sent to the Parliamentary Committee, however, the PC rejected the reappointment of six additional judges (four of the Lahore High Court and two of the Sindh High Court), relying on the written comments of the chief justices of the LHC and SHC to do so. The rejection by the PC caused the Supreme Court to swing into action, overruling the PC and instructing the government to reappoint the six additional judges.
Essentially, the superior judiciary has now moved one step closer to achieving a hermetically sealed judiciary, in which only the judiciary gets to determine who can be a judge. By rejecting the PC`s rejection of the six additional judges, the Supreme Court has effectively told parliament that its role in judicial appointments is minimal, almost like the president`s assent in which he has no discretion. Is this a good thing? Should the custodians and final interpreters of the law decide their own membership while shutting out the input of the people`s representatives? There are no easy answers here.

Source : http://www.dawn.com/2011/04/28/additional-judges-3.html

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