PML-N proposal on judicial commission accepted
By Amir Wasim
ISLAMABAD: The Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Reforms agreed on Tuesday to a suggestion of the Pakistan Muslim League-N to reconstitute the judicial commission and proposed to raise its strength to seven from six, sources told Dawn.
A meeting of the committee, presided over by its chairman Senator Raza Rabbani, recommended that a retired judge of the Supreme Court be added to the commission as member.
The sources said the Chief Justice of Pakistan would have the powers to appoint any retired judge as member of the commission.
“The committee has proposed to increase the number of judicial commission members to seven from six to avoid a tie in case of a difference of opinion on appointment of judges,” a member told Dawn.
The demand for reconstitution of the commission, the sources said, had been made by the PML-N after a section of the lawyers’ community objected to the composition of the proposed commission.
The committee, which has been holding the proceedings in camera, had to make public proposals about the procedure for judges’ appointment after contradictory reports began to surface in the media.
The committee had earlier recommended that the judicial commission should consist of six members — the Chief Justice of Pakistan as chairman, two senior judges of the apex court, two government representatives (the law minister and the attorney-general) and a senior advocate to be nominated by the Pakistan Bar Council.
The commission, by a majority, will recommend one name for each vacancy in the Supreme Court or high courts to a parliamentary committee comprising eight members – four from the Senate and four from the National Assembly — to be equally divided between the treasury and the opposition. The Rabbani committee’s proposal drew criticism from lawyers. They said that an equal number of judges and government officials in the commission would create problems in case of a tie in voting.
A delegation of lawyers had on Sunday met PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif in Raiwind and apprised him of their grievances. Mr Sharif assured them that his party would try to get the judicial commission reconstituted, the sources said.
The committee, which had finalised a draft of the 18th Constitution Amendment Bill, 2010, on Saturday, is reported to have suggested some 100 big and small amendments to over 70 articles of the Constitution.
The sources said the committee did not confine its job to the repeal of the controversial 17th Amendment and transfer of powers from the president to the prime minister, but also prepared recommendations suggesting some major amendments to the articles dealing with provincial autonomy.
They said that although the committee had completed its first reading of the draft report, five or six issues still remained unresolved. Except for the issue of renaming of the NWFP, these were of a minor nature, they added.
The committee will meet again on Wednesday to try to achieve a consensus on the remaining issues.
A delay in finalisation of the committee’s report has forced President Asif Ali Zardari to delay his address to a joint sitting of parliament, which has been due since the start of the third parliamentary year on March 17.