ISLAMABAD: Senior puisne judge of the Supreme Court Justice Qazi Faez Isa and his colleague Justice Sardar Tariq Masood have expressed dismay over Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial’s speech at the new judicial year ceremony, saying he “said much more” than what he was supposed to say at the event.

Addressed to all members of the Judicial Commission of Pakistan (JCP), the joint letter written on Thursday states that: “The object of the ceremony (as stated by the CJP) was to identify our priorities and set out our vision for the coming year, but the CJP said much more. He sought to justify decisions of the Supreme Court, respond to criticism of its judgments, and unilaterally speak on behalf of the Supreme Court.”

They added: “The Supreme Court does not comprise the CJP alone, [but] it includes all the judges of the Supreme Court. The CJP commenting on pending cases was disconcerting.”

Both Justice Isa and Justice Masood, who are among the nine members of the JCP, had also written letters soon after the commission’s July 28 meeting, claiming that the meeting disapproved the nominations to elevate judges.

In joint letter, justices Isa and Masood term CJ Umar Ata Bandial’s comments on pending cases ‘disconcerting’

In the latest letter, they wondered whether judges should commend themselves for the number of cases decided “when more than a third of the Supreme Court lies vacant”, noting that a “full court would undoubtedly have decided far more cases”.

They also disclosed that they had repeatedly called upon the JCP chairman to convene a meeting of the commission — both before and after the notified summer vacations — “to enable making of nominations to the Supreme Court”.

“To stress the urgency, we had stated that not filling the vacancies is reckless disregard of a constitutional duty. But all to no avail,” the two senior judges regretted.

“The Supreme Court cannot be placed in suspended animation till such time that members, to use the words of the CJP, ‘support the candidates proposed by the chairman’,” they said.

The copy of the joint letter has also been sent to Supreme Court’s acting registrar, who is also JCP’s acting secretary, with a direction “to release the letter and its Urdu translation to media since it pertains to CJP’s address which was widely reported”.

Justice Isa and Justice Masood said the CJP allegedly made “uncalled for and disparaging” remarks about the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) and its current and several past office bearers, “accusing them of political partisanship because they had requested that the full court be constituted to hear the cited case.”

They regretted that when the apex court had declined their request, the CJP could not “disparage and attribute motives to them”.

Moreover, they said the CJP further sought to justify what the apex court did by needlessly asserting that the request had no legal ground when the Constitution required the Supreme Court to give decisions.

But what was “most inappropriate, and unreasonable,” was to mention the working and decisions of the JCP in the speech, which was a separate and independent body under the Constitution, the judges said in the letter.

The CJP had stated that the candidates proposed by JCP chairman were not approved, and blamed the representatives of the federal government, namely the law minister and attorney general for Pakistan, and also expressed his displeasure, the letter said.

“Under no circumstances should the chairman of the JCP say what was said,” the letter wondered, stressing that as the commissions’ chairman, the CJP must abide by its decisions than allegedly attacking its members and to do so publicly only because they did not support his candidates.

What the CJP said was also contrary to the record, the letter said, adding that it was not correct that his candidates were supported by four members of JCP, which the “unauthorised” release of the audio-recording of the meeting confirms.

Justice Sarmad Jalal Osmany also did not support all his candidates, the letter recalled, stating it was wrong to categorise the JCP meeting as a pre-scheduled meeting and it was adjourned.

When chairman did not succeed in achieving his objective, he took the majority decision of the JCP as a personal affront and walked out of the meeting, the letter recalled.

“All members of the JCP, including its chairman, are equal. The only additional responsibility of the CJP is for him to act as its chairman,” the letter said, adding the Constitution stipulated that the JCP by majority of its total membership would nominate judges.

Published in Dawn, September 16th, 2022

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