Standoff between Pakistan government and apex court

Sunday, February 14, 2010

ISLAMABAD - The government and judiciary in Pakistan are engaged in a tug of war with the Supreme Court suspending President Asif Ali Zardari’s order elevating two High Court judges.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhary formed a special judge bench Saturday evening that suspended the government notification elevating two judges of the Lahore High Court to the apex court.

The three-member bench was constituted just after President Zardari announced the appointment of justice Khawaja Mohammad Sharif, chief justice of Lahore High Court, as the Supreme Court chief justice. Zardari also appointed Mian Saqib Nisar, the senior most judge of the High Court, as the acting chief justice in Sharif’s place.

The bench of justices Mian Shakirullah Jan, Raja Fayyaz Ahmed and Jawwad S Khawja in a short order, noted that these notifications were in violation of the constitution as the Chief Justice of Pakistan was not consulted before the appointments.

The bench also suspended the administration of oath by any functionary and directed both the judges of the High Court to continue performing their duties in their current positions.

The apex court also issued notices to the additional secretary, ministry of law and justice, to appear before it Feb 18 and explain under whose instructions he had issued these notifications, APP reported.

A similar notice was also issued to the Registrar of Lahore High Court. The case has been referred to a five-member judge bench which is already taking up other cases regarding delay in filling the post of judges in the country.

Earlier, Justice Chaudhry had recommended appointing a retired justice as an ad hoc judge of the Supreme Court and elevating justice Saqib Nisar to the apex court. The recommendation was turned down by the President Jan 23.

However, president’s spokesman Farhatullah Babar said that the chief justice was consulted before issuing the fresh notifications Saturday.

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