By Hasnaat Malik
ISLAMABAD: Accepting a petition for regular hearing against the appointment of retired judges as chief judge or judge of the Supreme Appellate Court of Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B), the Supreme Court (SC) on Monday issued notices to the Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) and other respondents.
A three-member bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and comprising Justice Khilji Arif Hussain and Justice Tariq Parvez, has taken up a petition filed by Advocate Muhammad Ikram Chaudhry on behalf of a social activist Dr Ghulam Abbas, recipient of the Jinnah Award and Quaid-i-Azam Awards and also chairman of the G-B National Movement. Chaudhry, counsel for the petitioner, submitted before the court that in the Supreme Appellate Court of G-B, the retired judges having over 70 years of age were appointed. He said out of these judges, some judges had taken oath under the November 3, 2007 Proclamation of Emergency Order (PCO), which has been declared by the apex court as unconstitutional. He requested the court to set aside the appointment of such judges.
He said there should be an amendment to the relevant laws requiring the chief judge and judges of the G-B Supreme Appellate Court to serve as judges up to the age of 65 years like judges of the SC of Pakistan and the AJK SC. He pleaded to the court to declare the appointment of retired judges as chief judge or judge of the G-B Supreme Appellate Court as illegal and against the Constitution of Pakistan.
He requested the court to declare unconstitutional Article 60(5, 6) and 60(8) of the G-B (Empowerment and Self-Governance Order 2009) because it violated fundamental rights of the citizens of G-B and all norms of justice and principles aid down by the SC.
He sought a suitable amendment to the Empowerment and Self-Governance Order to bring it at par with the 1973 Constitution of Pakistan and the Interim Constitutional Act of AJK 1974. “This will help ensure independence of the judiciary and fundamental rights in G-B,” he submitted. He said a retired and controversial judge who had taken oath under the November 3, 2007 PCO has been appointed as chief judge of the G-B Supreme Appellate Court after his retirement, which was contrary to the SC’s July 31 judgment declaring the PCO judges illegal. The decision of appointment was not only unjustified but also amounted to discriminatory treatment to the people of G-B, Ikram Chaudhry contended. “The G-B Supreme Appellate Court is not like a service tribunal or election tribunal rather a full-fledged court like the SC of Pakistan and, therefore, it should be treated like an independent court,” he said.
In 1999, the SC had held that the people of G-B (then Northern Areas) were citizens of Pakistan and, therefore, entitled to same fundamental rights as available to the citizens of Pakistan.
It had also ordered the federal government to establish an appellate forum to hear appeals against decisions of the apex court of G-B. In 2005, the government established a court of appeal, which was renamed in 2007 as the Supreme Appellate Court Gilgit. It is still functioning under the Northern Areas Governance Order 1994.
The petitioner has contended that terms, conditions and privileges of SC judges in Pakistan regarding the retirement age were available to AJK judges, but the same were denied to G-B judges. “They are appointed on contract as per the 2009 order which militates against Articles 175 and 203 of the Constitution and even is in conflict with the chief court/high court position under the law,” he said.
The petitioner asked that when the retirement age of the chief justice and judges of AJK SC and the chief justice and judges of the SC of Pakistan is 65 years why the judges in G-B were being appointed for a period of three years. The federal government through the law ministry, chairmen of G-B Prime Minister’s Secretariat and G-B Legislative Council, Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and G-B Division and G-B Legislative Assembly speaker are respondents in the petition.
Courtesy: Daily Times