Peshawar High Court Chief Justice Questions CJP Isa's Decision Not To Elevate Him to Supreme Court

Justice Ibrahim Khan claims there is a sense of arbitrariness, discrimination and favouritism in appointing judges to top court, demands clarity

Peshawar High Court Chief Justice Questions CJP Isa's Decision Not To Elevate Him to Supreme Court

The top judge in the Peshawar High Court has expressed frustration with the promotion policy adopted by Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa, complaining about not being elevated to the Supreme Court.

The undated, four-page letter penned by Peshawar High Court's Chief Justice Mohammad Ibrahim Khan emerged on Wednesday. The timing of the letter's emergence is interesting, given that Justice Ibrahim is due to retire later in the month, on April 15, after reaching the age of superannuation.

The letter began by expressing a sense of "disillusionment" with Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa's alleged "arbitrariness, discrimination, and favouritism" in appointing judges to the top court.

Justice Ibrahim notes that since CJP Isa took over in September, there have been four vacancies in the Supreme Court, but only one has been filled thus far.

"Only one vacancy was filled by appointing my brother judge, Mr Justice Naeem Akhtar Afghan of Balochistan High Court, the then chief justice, Balochistan High Court," Justice Ibrahim complained. 

"It was a profound disappointment when I learnt that only one judge, and that too from your own province, was appointed in the Supreme Court despite the fact that there were four vacancies," he added.

"I am genuinely happy for my brother Justice Naeem Akhtar Afghan but why my candidacy was not considered notwithstanding my seniority, eligibility and availability of vacancies in the Supreme Court?"

Justice Ibrahim argued that he was the second senior-most chief justice among the chief justices of all the high courts in Pakistan. 

"I had legitimate expectation that my candidture would be at least included in the list for consideration to be appointed as a judge of the Supreme Court of Pakistan," he said, adding that if the Judicial Commission of Pakistan found him unfit for elevation as a judge of the Supreme Court after "due process," he would have happily accepted the JCP's decision.

Justice Ibrahim argued that given the large backlog of cases in the top court, CJP Isa would have been keen to fill the four vacancies in the Supreme Court at the earliest when people feel "deprived of speedy justice."

"There is a duty to act diligently. This decision of solitary appointment has left me perplexed and seeking genuine answers. I have been thinking about possible reasons for not filling the vacancies, but no logical and persuasive reason could come to mind," he said.

Justice Ibrahim went on to make a case for why he was eligible for elevation to the top court, pointing to his long service and adherence to principles of justice, "I believed would naturally pave the way for recognition and career advancement based on merit."

"It is against this backdrop of dedication, performance, and contribution to our judiciary that I find the decision to even not consider my candidacy for elevation not only surprising but deeply concerning."

Justice Ibrahim also reproduced a segment of a letter CJP Isa had written to former chief justice Umar Ata Bandial on appointing judges, noting how he called for non-discriminatory criteria.

Conceding that the decision to elevate judges to the superior courts is complex and multifaceted, involving considerations not apparent, Justice Ibrahim questioned CJP Isa's decision to elevate Justice Afghan while allowing three seats to remain vacant.

"It is also mind-boggling that presently, there are three judges in the Supreme Court from Balochistan whereas from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, there are only two judges therefore, while comparing the two provinces on any analogy whatsoever, desirably, there would be one more vacancy for the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa."

He claimed that the allocation of judges' seats in the Supreme Court is out of proportion, giving rise to a sense of discontentment in provinces, especially Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. 

Justice Ibrahim went on to insinuate that elevations were made based on personal connections, noting, "Unfortunately, I lack the personal connections that often play a role in such elevations."

He added, "This lack of advocacy or lobbying on my behalf should not be a deterrent to recognising the merit and commitment I have demonstrated towards upholding justice."

He urged CJP Isa to provide clarity and assurance that the principles of merit, fairness and equality of opportunity are upheld.

It is pertinent to note that Justice Musarrat Hilali was elevated to the top court last year at CJP Isa's insistence.

The writer is an Islamabad based journalist working with The Friday Times. He tweets @SabihUlHussnain