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Islamabad, (Press Release), (Parliament Times) :The Constitutional Amendment Bill was debated at length today before the Senate Law & Justice Committee headed by Senator & Barrister Syed Ali Zafar.

Committee’s Chairman, Barrister Ali Zafar, began the debate by stating that without independence of judiciary no nation can progress or society function and no state can survive. In order to ensure the independence of judiciary, Barrister Ali Zafar stated that the two most important items are that there must be transparency and security in the process of appointing Judges as well as their removal. Tracing the history, he stated that previously there was an unofficial process of consultation between the Executive and the concerned Chief Justices through which the Judges were appointed but vide the 18th and 19th Amendments, a more transparent and robust process was initiated in which the Judges were appointed in stage one by a Judicial Commission and then as a second stage by a Parliamentary Committee. He pointed out that through a judgement of the Supreme Court, the powers of the Parliamentary Committee were taken away and it was left without any jurisdiction to deny the nominations made by the Judicial Commission and, hence, the Parliamentary Committee became a toothless body.

Barrister Ali Zafar further pointed out that the recent meeting of the Judicial Commission also showed that there was need to maintain a balance so that in the matter of appointment of Judges, the decision could be made in a more transparent and structured manner. Regarding the amendments, he pointed out that there were three potential areas. Firstly the composition of the Judicial Commission has been changed so that instead of 5 Judges being part of the Judicial Committee there would now be 4 Judges, including the Chief Justice of Pakistan, while the remaining 3 would be represented by the Law Minister, Attorney General of Pakistan and a representative from the Pakistan Bar Council. In this manner the majority of the Judicial Commission will still remain with the Judges but the Judicial Committee would also have an equal say in the process.

Barrister Ali Zafar stated that that the second part related to re-empowering the Parliamentary Committee and it was decided that the Parliamentary Committee may accept or reject the nominations and that its decision shall not be subject to challenge in the Supreme Court or a High Court. In this manner, there would be a two-layered process to ensure that the best person is appointed as a Judge of the Supreme Judiciary.

The amendment also proposed that there would be an Initiation Committee which would nominate the Judges of the High Courts for consideration by the Judicial Committee and the Parliamentary Committee. It may be mentioned that previously there was no Initiation Committee and the nomination for the appointment of High Court Judges was made by the Chief Justice of Pakistan. Committee’s Chairman, Barrister Ali Zafar opposed this Initiation Committee by stating that the matter of nomination should be left to the discretion of the Chief Justice of Pakistan and the relevant Judges of the High Courts because their nominations can be considered or rejected first by the Judicial Committee and then by the Parliamentary Committee and there was no need to add a third-tier which would only complicate the matter.

Barrister Ali Zafar also pointed out that having representation by the Law Minister, Attorney General of Pakistan and Pakistan Bar Council at the stage of nomination would also lead to more conflict and confrontation. However, after deliberation, the Committee decided to approve the amendment pertaining to Initiation Committee. Resultantly, Article 175A of the Constitution stands amended so that the constitution of the Judicial Commission has been changed, Parliamentary Committee has been empowered and a new Committee called the “Initiation Committee” has been formed which shall nominate the Judges to the High Courts. The amendment also suggested that decisions of the Initiation Committee, Judicial Commission and Parliamentary Committee must be made within fixed timeframe.

Chairman NAB also appeared before the Senate Law & Justice Committee in respect of a public petition in which the claimants of Eden Estate had demanded compensation for non-availability of plots in the society. Barrister Ali Zafar welcomed Chairman NAB and requested him to explain the case and give a framework on how and when the claimants could be compensated for their losses. Chairman NAB explained to the Committee that the owners of Eden have entered into a plea bargain of PKR 16 Billion and all the claimants shall be satisfied, including the ones who have filed the petition. The Chairman NAB further submitted that the payment will be made in three years on a pro rata basis. The Committee was satisfied with the explanation of Chairman NAB and thanked him.

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