ISLAMABAD, Mar 25 (APP): Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial on Friday said that the prerogative to constitute benches historically lay with the chief justice.
He made these remarks at a full court reference held to bid farewell to Justice Qazi Muhammad Amin Ahmed of the Supreme Court.
CJP Bandial said the chief justice had been forming benches for the last 20 years, and asked why objections were raised without any reason. It was the chief justice who decided which case would be fixed for hearing and which bench would take it up, he said, adding if someone had an objection, he should talk to him.
He said judges must not be targeted on the basis of hearsay since they could not respond to criticism. One could criticise judgments, but not judges, he added.
He said it had been done by discarding the good practice of structuring the CJP’s discretion by the predecessors of constituting benches consisting of senior-most judges when cases involved important constitutional questions.
There was no discernible criterion in the constitution of the present bench, he said, adding it was most troubling and gave rise to unnecessary and avoidable misgivings.
The Constitution, he said, recognised the most senior judge of the apex court and “with seniority comes responsibility, which must not be shirked”. The senior-most judge also ensured continuity of the Supreme Court as an institution, but that practice had been discarded, which could had an adverse consequence for the institution, he added.
Chief Justice Bandial also maintained that judges in the Supreme Court were very competent and professional. Procedures for appointment of judges were being worked out unanimously and the criterion for appointment of judges was based on competence, conduct and excellent reputation, he added.
He was of the view that judges took decisions on the basis of their conscience. “We are all accountable to Allah, whatever is said in public is only for the media. Judges cannot be targeted without proof.”
Justice Bandial said the registrar of the Supreme Court had complete understanding of the law and administrative affairs.
He also called upon critics of the judiciary to talk about useful knowledge and shun criticism of judges.
Justice Qazi Muhammad Amin Ahmed, in his farewell address, said the journey that started from anonymity of an humble neighbourhood of a small town, was terminating in the footsteps of Margallah at the highest seat of justice in the realm.
“Completely at peace with life and myself both, I would cherish my stay in the Supreme Court as best time of my life. I discovered a new world, a world far beyond criminal jurisprudence,” he added.
“On the conclusion of my career, I am indebt of gratitude to many for being instrumental for my presence on the judicial horizon; on top of them is indeed, Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa, my Lord the Chief Justice and Justice Kh. Imtiaz Ahmed,” he said.
Justice Amin said the appointment of Justice Ayesha Malik was a historic step. “Seven decades passed in understanding that gender is not an obstacle in appointments for the higher courts,” he added.
Attorney General Khalid Javed Khan, in his address, said Justice Qazi Amin was considered an expert in criminal cases. Justice Qazi Amin, as a judge, heard criminal cases, he added.
He said the Supreme Court was the guardian of the Constitution and fundamental rights. The people of Pakistan had confidence and trust in the Supreme Court, he added.
He said the Supreme Court as an institution was like a family and the internal affairs of the apex court should be decided within the institution. Internal affairs of the Supreme Court should not be discussed in the streets, cafeteria and social media and the old traditions of the Supreme Court should be maintained, he added.
Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) President Ahsan Bhoon addressed the gathering and said the principles of meaningful and purposeful appointments to the top court should be formulated.
He observed that qualified lawyers like Justice Qazi Amin should be appointed as judges of the Supreme Court.
Bhoon also hoped that the judiciary under the current chief justice would rise and its supremacy would be established.
The Pakistan Bar Council Vice Chairman, in his address, said some parties were not given a fair chance of hearing at the top court. “For many years, cases are not fixed in the Supreme Court and they eventually become ineffective,” he added.
He said all eyes were on the Supreme Court, adding that the apex court must take decisions that upheld the supremacy of the Constitution.