Though one controversy between the presidency and the apex court has come to an end with the dispatch of the letter to Swiss authorities but another crisis is brewing over the appointment and seniority of judges in the Islamabad High Court. Though the issue is very complicate and involves multiple judges and their futures which started with the decision to elevate the chief justice of the Islamabad High Court, Justice Iqbal Hameedur Rehman, to the Supreme Court. The row started when the Judicial Commission nominated and the parliamentary committee endorsed, Justice Anwar Kasi to the chief justice’s slot as the senior-most judge of the Islamabad High Court. When the summary appeared before President Zardari for routine signing, an anomaly highlighted that another judge of the IHC, Justice Riaz Ahmed Khan, had been considered senior to Justice Kasi and therefore he was in line to succeed Justice Rehman as the IHC chief justice. In the midst of this tussle, two other judges of the IHC have gone home because their continuation as judges beyond Nov 20 was depending on approval by the Judicial Commission, which did assent but whose composition was taken as incomplete by the presidency owing to the dispute over who was the IHC’s senior-most judge.
The issue seems to be complicated. On the face of it, the presidency appears to be inserting itself into a decision-making process that is two-tiered - judicial and parliamentary and in which the role of the president was not really envisaged to question the decisions taken by the judicial commission and endorsed by the parliamentary body but the matter becomes more complicated because it appears the presidency may have a genuine case that Justice Riaz Ahmed Khan and not Justice Anwar Kasi is technically the senior-most judge of the IHC behind the chief justice who has been elevated to the SC. The main mystery here is why the Parliamentary Committee, which is meant to debate and probe the Judicial Commission’s recommendations, has appeared to be rubberstamped a change at the top of the IHC that may be out of line with accepted convention. Considering the speculation that has been generated, it is important to know the reasons behind the out-of-step nomination of the next IHC chief justice.
There is need of hour that presidential reference to the SC should be moved quickly to end this unnecessary impasse, which was being interpreted in various ways.