Dropped judicial candidates see LHC as last hope
By Abid Butt
LAHORE Six men dropped from the list of selected additional district and sessions judges (ADSJs) are considering moving the Lahore High Court to challenge the notification of 22 candidates.
This would be the first time the appointments would be challenged in court since the provincial governments handed the High Courts the authority to test and appoint additional judges in 1994 under the Judicial Service Rules.
The LHC has held exams in 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2003.
In previous exams, the LHC had allowed civil judges to resign and take the exams and get posted if they qualify. However, in the latest notification, two qualified candidates, Amir Iqbal Basharat and Arshad Mahmood, were dropped under Rule 7(1)(b) of the Punjab Judicial Service Rules.
This rule requires candidates to have 10 years experience as an advocate. However, in previous exams the LHC had counted experience as civil judges supplement to the required experience of advocacy.
The three member judicial committee that held the exams in 2003 issued roll number slips to these candidates after scrutinising their eligibility. Of the 450 candidates that applied, 417 were issued roll number slips, none being disqualified on the basis that they did not have the full 10 years experience.
Justice Fakhurun Nisa Khokhar of the Lahore High Court was chairperson of the examination committee and strongly opposed the dropping of candidates under the rule.
After previous exams, the LHC appointed Mansoor Zaman Bhatti, Naeem Tahir and Munir Hussain Shah, who have less than the required 10 years experience if their judicial service is discounted.
Muhammad Iqbal Khan, who was dropped after being number 10 on the selection list, has already filed a petition. However, the LHC office objected to the maintainability of his petition and refused to fix it before a bench.
The office said according to a judgment of a full LHC bench headed by Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, the administrative orders of the LHC cannot be challenged.
In reply to the objection, the petitioner cited a judgment of the Peshawar High Court, which accepted a petition against its own administrative order and found in favour of the applicant.
The petition is still lying with the LHC office.
The exams were held for 29 vacant additional district and sessions judge posts. Of the 417 who took the written exam, only 79 qualified. Thirty-three were left after interviews and the LHC sent their names to the Special Branch for reports. Though there were 29 vacancies, only 24 candidates were notified, and two more were dropped after the experience rule was invoked.
Amir Iqbal Basharat, Arshad Mahmood, Waqarul Hassan Butt and Muhammad Iqbal Khan are the former civil judges who intend to challenge the notification. Malik Irfan and Farhat Zafar are also considering moving the court against the administrative committee’s posting notification.
Ali Nawaz, who was initially at 30 on the list and was scrutinised by the agencies, is also reported to be considering an approach to the court. He feels since only 22 candidates have been notified, he can fill one of the seven remaining vacancies.