Assad Hameed and Amir Riaz
ISLAMABAD/LAHORE – The kingpins of lawyers’ movement for restoration of deposed judges have partially welcomed Friday’s announcement about reinstatement of sacked judiciary on May 12.
Reacting to the statement made by Chief of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Nawaz Sharif, about the restoration of judges through a resolution on May 12, the leading lawyers hail the announcement while considering it a step forward. However, these lawyers expressed serious concerns over the much-referred legal package, saying, a final decision will be taken in this regard after the proposed document is unfolded.
Justice (Retd) Tariq Mehmood and Munir A Malik, the two former Presidents of Supreme Court Bar Association, also regretted that the good news has come after a considerable delay to what was decided in the Murree Declaration.
“With the restoration of deposed judges, the present Chief Justice will go back to where he was positioned on November 2, 2007,” Justice (Retd) Tariq Mehmood believed.
“For adjusting more than 17 judges of the apex court, the government had to bring in an amendment in the Judges Act, 1997 which provides for only 17 judges whereas the number may go beyond two dozens after May 12,” Justice Tariq said when asked about the legal scheme for formation of the apex court.
Munir A Malik in his comments over the statement of Nawaz Sharrif said, it is a step forward and we welcome it but there are still many reservations among the lawyers.
Many things are still ambiguous especially the fate of present judges and the number of apex court judges.
“We are keeping a close eye on all the developments and lawyers will decide their future course of action after the events of May 12,” he added.
Commenting on the suggestion that the members of the newly formed committee for restoration of judges will also talk to all the stakeholders, Munir said it would be very improper if any members talk to a judge about legislation regarding the latter’s job.
Ali Ahmed Kurd, the firebrand speaker and another kingpin of lawyers movement, have also expressed concern and reservations about the state of affairs despite the statement of Nawaz Sharrif that the judges would be restored on May 12 through a resolution in assembly.
“The announcement is acceptable only to a certain level that guarantees the restoration of judges” Kurd said, adding that the lawyers will decide their future course of action after the events of May 12.
In Lahore, the legal fraternity has wholeheartedly welcomed the announcement made by PML-N Quaid Nawaz Sharif that all deposed judges would be reinstated on May 12 and termed it as a victory of lawyers relentless struggle continuing for over a year now.
Former President Supreme Court Bar Association Munir A Malik said it was positive step for which the entire nation was waiting eagerly. “We are much pleased. The decision has come a bit late but it is the right one. All is well that ends well,” he said with his eyes shining with hope.
“It is clear that judges would be reinstated through a resolution followed by an executive order. This shows that coalition partners have conceded to lawyers’ demand,” he said. He, however, said the lawyers would follow the policy of wait and see till May 12.
Talking about proposed constitutional package about judges, Mr Malik said the government had not made it public but “we are satisfied that resolution and constitutional package were not interlinked”. The parliament is free to introduce judicial reforms by making amendments in the Constitution but these changes should not be individual specific or targeting single person, he further said.
Dilating upon choosing May 12 for judges’ reinstatement, he said, “It will be a historical day in our movement and presenting a resolution on the same day would pay homage to those people who sacrificed their lives for independence of judiciary and rule of law.”
Justice(r) Tariq Mahmood said the announcement had come after coalition partners adopted give and take policy. The present PCO judges would not be disturbed. The lawyers have reservations over PCO judges but for a greater cause the lawyers are ready to accept them with heavy hearts. Dilating upon the issue that judges’ number in the SC, Traiq said it was not a perplexed issue because Article 176 of the Constitution authorises parliament to fix number of judges that is 17 at present as per Supreme Court (number of judges) Act, 1997.
The parliament would have to increase number of judges by making an amendment in the said law with simple majority, he added. He said delay had been caused in the judges’ reinstatement but “All is well that ends well”. The delay has become irrelevant because such minor things could be overlooked in the backdrop of new development. He expressed the hope that coalition partners would keep up their words this time and all the judges would be made functional on May 12.
“The judges are going to be reinstated with simple resolution because their restoration through constitutional amendment would tantamount to accepting November 3 extra-constitutional steps,” he said.
Hamid Khan, a member of the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC), said, “It is a right step in right direction.” But at the same time, he said, the PBC had made it clear that it would resist slashing of CJP’s tenure.
Constitutional expert S M Zafar termed the announcement as a positive step in a very tough time. However, he said, “To keep coalition intact PML-N and PPP have made compromise over the issue of present judges.”
He said the reinstatement of judges on May 12 would depend on the executive order of the prime minister after passage of a resolution that would also decide fate of both deposed and PCO judges. Mr Zafar was of the view that the press briefing should have been held by both coalition parties’ leaders as absence of PPP leadership has left many doubts in the minds.
On the other hand, justice(r) Wajihuddin has strongly opposed the move to retain PCO judges, saying that it is sheer violation of Murree Accord and Charter of Democracy.
The lawyers are ready to accept only those PCO judges who were working on November 2 and took oath under PCO on November 3. Yet their cases are to be referred to supreme judicial council for committing misconduct for not obeying seven members bench’s decision that had rescinded PCO on the same day.
He said the new appointments made under PCO were unacceptable because it would provide protection to Pervez Musharraf’s unconstitutional steps.
Justice(r) Saeed-uz-Zaman Siddiqui said it was a welcome move that judges’ would be reinstated through a resolution that would be passed with simple majority in the parliament. Commenting on the issue to increase number of judges, he said president and parliament both could fix number of judges by act of parliament or presidential order under Article 176.
Source: The Nation, 4/5/2008