The Pakistan Bar Council on Saturday urged Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa to fix for early hearing a petition which challenges the elevations of judges on the principle of seniority.
The request comes at a time when two positions have fallen vacant in the top court after Justice Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi and then Justice Ijazul Ahsan resigned from their posts.
Late Justice Waqar Ahmed Seth, who was the chief justice of Peshawar High Court (PHC) in 2020, had moved a petition against the elevation of junior judges of the high courts to the Supreme Court against the principles of seniority. The petition has been pending for the past four years.
In his petition, the late Justice Seth had questioned the elevation of three judges from the Lahore High Court (LHC) to the top court in an alleged violation of the principle of seniority.
These judges included Justice Qazi Amin Ahmed (who retired in March 2022), Justice Aminuddin Khan (currently serving) and Justice Naqvi (resigned).
Justice Munib Akhtar, who was elevated to the Supreme Court from the Sindh High Court, was also lower in the seniority list compared to his peers when he was elevated.
In his application, late Justice Seth had maintained that he was the senior-most chief justice amongst the chief justices of all the high courts. He said that a post had fallen vacant after the retirement of Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan in May 2018, who belonged to the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).
The then-PHC CJ Waqar Ahmed Seth observed that there was a convention in the Supreme Court whereby any vacancy would be filled by appointing a replacement from the same province as the previous incumbent of that seat.
He regretted that instead of filling the vacancy from KP, an appointment was made from Karachi and that too of a far junior judge (Justice Munib Akhtar).
PBC Vice-Chairman Haroon-ur-Rashid and Executive Committee Chairman Hassan Raza Pasha, in a press statement, said that in the past, elevations to the Superior Courts were made based on an arbitrary pick-and-choose policy. This policy, they said, violated a judgment of the Supreme Court, which had been passed in the Al-Jehad Trust case (Judges Case) and was against the spirit of the Constitution. They added that the Bar had always raised its voice against abandoning an established policy and that it was also legally challenged by the late Justice Waqar Ahmed Seth before the apex court.
They said that the Bar has been consistent in its demand for laying down the criteria for the elevation of judges, not only to the Supreme Court but also to the high courts and the Federal Shariat Court. With Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa at the helm, they expected the issue of criteria for elevating judges will be finalised soon.