Pakistan, Muzaffarabad: The Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Shariat Court (Amendment) Act 2016 is not only in violation of the Bar Council resolution of October last year, but also of the AJK Supreme Court judgment delivered on the issue in September 2014, asserted Raja Amjad Ali Khan, vice chairperson of the apex body of AJK lawyers. The Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Bar Council, the apex body of AJK lawyers, is likely to challenge a recently amended piece of law about the territory’s ‘controversial’ Shariat Court.
Last week, the AJK Assembly approved the amended law with majority vote, along with many other bills, notwithstanding serious concerns by main opposition PML-N. The Bar Council was of the opinion that the Shariat Court, established through subordinate legislation in 1993, should be dissolved altogether and the powers vested in it should be restored in the High Court. “We had been constantly asking the government to do away with this parallel judicial system, but to no avail,” Mr Khan said, declaring that the “arbitrary legislation” had left the bar council with no choice but to call it into question at the appropriate forum.
On other issues, the vice-chairman said that the bar council was in complete agreement that the quota for appointment of non-judicial employees as civil judges was unfair and should be abolished forthwith, as it amounted to weakening the institution of judiciary. “Without enrolment in the Bar Council, law degree does not carry any professional value and therefore elevation of clerical employees as civil judges merely on the basis of a law degree is synonymous with infringement on the right of competent and duly enrolled professional lawyers,” he said.
According to AJK Judicial Service Rules 2011, 10pc of the posts of civil judges have been reserved to be filled in on promotion from amongst the law graduate employees in judiciary in BS-16 with five-year service in judiciary after passing the examination to be conducted by the judicial selection board constituted by the AJK High Court Chief Justice as well as the law graduate officers already working in BS-17 in judiciary. Another 10pc of these posts have been reserved to be filled in by transfer on the basis of suitability from amongst the law department sections officers (BS-17), possessing minimum five-year service in that position.
The bar council vice-chairperson demanded that all posts of civil judges should be filled in from amongst professional lawyers on merit through the Public Service Commission. He said, “That will help establish an assertive and dignified subordinate judiciary”. Mr Khan maintained that the legal fraternity had also serious concerns about the process for recruitment of judicial service employees and wanted improvement in it, to the satisfaction of all stakeholders.
He added, “The Bar Council demands of the authorities concerned to ensure transparency and merit in the process for recruitment in all service groups in general and in judicial service in particular”. Mr Khan also referred to some cases, which he claimed, spoke volumes about non-transparency in induction of non-judicial staff for different courts of law. He also said, “The selection process should be linked with the National Testing Service and it should be given legal cover”.