President’s role nominal in judges’ appointment: SC

ISLAMABAD: Announcing its verdict on the presidential reference over the appointment of judges, the Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that the president’s role in appointing judges was nominal and only the judicial commission was responsible to determine seniority of the judges.

The verdict earlier reserved on December 21, 2013, was announced by a five- member larger bench comprising Justice Khilji Arif Hussain, Justice Tariq Parvez, Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, Justice Gulzar Ahmed and Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed.

The 102-page verdict authored by Justice Khilji Arif Hussain stated that the president’s role in appointing judges was nominal and the judicial commission was responsible to appoint and determine seniority of judges according to the Constitution. The verdict made it clear that the president was bound to approve the recommendations put forward by the judicial commission.

It however stated that the president was bound to take advice of the prime minister in appointing Chief Election Commissioner, Caretaker Prime Minister, Chairman Public Service Commission and chief of armed forces.

When the controversy revolving appointment and seniority of Islamabad High Court (IHC) judges had come to the Supreme Court, it had ordered to appoint Justice Anwar Khan Kasi as the IHC Chief Justice after the majority had ruled in his favour.
However, in the verdict, Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan written a separate note and objected the appointment of Justice Anwar Khan Kasi and suggested the name of Justice Riaz Ahmed Khan as the IHC Chief Justice on the basis of his seniority.

The verdict stated that except the Chief Justice of Pakistan and Chief Justice of High Court, no one else had the authority to nominate judges in the high court. In the presidential reference filed under Article 186 of the Constitution seeking the apex court advise/opinion over the issue of IHC judges, the President Asif Ali Zardari had sought clarity on his role in the appointment of judges. The verdict also gave answers of 13 questions raised in the reference.

The verdict says that the president and the prime minister have no role with respect to the appointment of judges. It said that in the cases of Justice Riaz Ahmed Khan and Justice Anwar Khan Kasi, the seniority was not relevant, adding that the judicial commission could make any judge the chief justice of a high court. It however said that the judicial commission could also state its reasons for not making a senior judge a high court chief justice.