SC puisne judge expresses concern over composition of benches

SC puisne judge

ISLAMABAD: Supreme Court of Pakistan’s senior judge Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan expressed his serious concerns over formation of benches and judges’ roster.

In his letter written to Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Qazi Faez Isa, Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan stated that he was not consulted in formation of two special benches.

“The constitution of the other benches appears to have been changed. The committee has never discussed or agreed upon this court roster or the fixation of cases before the benches. Such large scale changes could not even otherwise have been undertaken by circulation especially when I was told that Justice Sardar Tariq was very unwell and could not attend the meeting of the committee,” stated the puisne judge.

A meeting of the committee constituted under section 2 of the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Act 2023 was held in the chambers of chief justice on December 7, 2023. I attended the meeting being a member of the committee. The agenda of the meeting (which was provided to me at about 2:30pm after repeated phone calls) was fixation of cases mentioned in the list; order of the committee on the maintainability of constitution petitions mentioned in the list; fixation policy regarding the matters in which early hearing petitions are allowed,” the note said.

“When item No-l of the agenda was discussed, it was agreed that since the judgment in the matter of the trial of civilians by military courts had been rendered by a five-member bench of this court, a seven-member vench would be constituted to hear the appeals,” added the note.

“I categorically and in clear terms stated that in order to dispel any impression of pick and choose, all judges of this court in the order of seniority be included in the appellate bench. The honourable chief justice agreed, but said that he would ask the honourable judges and if any honourable judge does not want to sit on the bench, the next available honourable judge will be included,” observed Justice Ahsan.

The same principle was agreed for other cases with the difference that a three-member bench would be constituted in the order of seniority,” added the note.

“If any honourable judge did not wish to sit on the bench the next in order of seniority would be included in the bench. It was agreed that after asking the proposed members of the two benches the members of the committee will be informed. I waited all day on Friday for any information regarding the two benches. At least three phone calls were made to you, but my office was informed that the file with your note had been sent to the chief justice of Pakistan. The last call was made at 6:30pm when your office stated that you had left for the day.”

“Neither the minutes of the 4th meeting nor those of the 5th meeting were sent to me on Friday or Saturday. Neither of the minutes have been seen or signed by me, yet these have been uploaded on the website of the Supreme Court of Pakistan,” stated the senior SC judge in his note.

“As a member of the committee, it is my right and duty to ensure that the minutes reflect accurately what was discussed in the meeting, what were the points of view of the members of the Committee and if there was any unanimity or a difference of opinion,” he added adding that the minutes of the 5th meeting prepared and uploaded by you most certainly fail to do so.

“Section 2 of the act provides that had these been placed before the committee, 1 could have agreed, disagreed, or refrained from giving my views,” said the judge.

“This has not happened to date. Further, as agreed in the meeting, a seven-member bench has not been constituted — instead a six-member bench has been notified. I am totally in the dark if any of the honourable judges who arc higher in the order of seniority had refrained from sitting on the bench. The three-member bench constituted to hear petitions under Article 184(3) of the Constitution does not comprise honourable judges in the order of seniority. I have the greatest respect for each and every honourable judge of this court, but as a matter of principle and in the interest of transparency and to maintain the dignity and honour of this court, the rule of seniority was agreed to be followed to hear these matters. I have therefore written this note to set the record straight. In view of the fact that you have uploaded the minutes of the meeting without even showing them to me, let alone getting my signatures, 1 expect that this note will also be uploaded on the website of the Supreme Court of Pakistan immediately.”

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