After much hullabaloo and protracted court proceedings on the issue, it is encouraging to see that the judicial and parliamentary bodies for appointment of superior judges have started functioning according to the procedure laid down in the 18th Amendment under Article 175A. In its astute judgement on petitions both in favour of and against the amendment, the Supreme Court (SC) had directed parliament to remove anomalies in the amendment and also made some recommendations, which it considered essential for upholding the independence of the judiciary. Parliament, for its part, has agreed to incorporate the recommendations and correct lacunae in the procedure of appointments through another constitutional amendment. Hopefully, certain things that had been overlooked earlier will now be addressed by the Constitutional Reforms Committee in the 19th Amendment. In the first exercise of the new procedure, the parliamentary committee met and approved the name of Justice Ijaz Ahmad Chaudhry for the post of Chief Justice of the Lahore High Court (LHC) forwarded to it by the judicial commission.
The appointment meets the principle of legitimate expectancy laid down in the Appointment of Judges Case 2002, as Justice Chaudhry is the senior most judge of LHC after the present Chief Justice Khwaja Mohammad Sharif who will retire on December 8 this year. The appointment of superior judges, which was earlier an exercise behind closed doors, has come into the public domain, in which public representative are mandated to participate and express their opinion by accepting or rejecting the nominees, functioning above party lines and under the strict guidelines of the constitution and the SC. The apex court has left room for further review of the procedure in its upcoming hearing of the case in January. Experience will inform what is the best way to make the new system function.Contrary to perceptions of a confrontation between parliament and the judiciary created during the court hearings on the 18th Amendment, the new system has started off smoothly, with the unanimous election of Senator Syed Nayyar Hussain Bokhari as chairman of the parliamentary committee and establishment of its rules of business. One can be sanguine that the procedure of broader consultation and more transparent mode of appointment of judges can work with necessary improvements – Dailytimes