Supreme Court orders parliament to review judicial reform

Nov 30, -0001
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's Supreme Court on Thursday ordered parliament to review a controversial new procedure of appointing judges that was introduced in a constitutional reform package earlier this year.

The court, which has been locked in a standoff with the government on a separate issue of corruption charges, issued its ruling after legal challenges were lodged against isolated reforms in the largely popular package.

"We would like to refer to the parliament for reconsideration, the issue of appointment process of judges to the superior courts," said the judgement read out in English by chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.

Legal experts argue that appointing judges through a commission headed by the chief justice, but with nominations approved by lawmakers, infringes the independence of the judiciary.

"To enable the parliament to proceed and re-examine the matter in terms of the observations made above, these petitions are adjourned to a date in the last week of January 2011," said the order signed by 17 Supreme Court judges.

The ruling from Pakistan's highest court did not refer to other objections raised over a quota of parliamentary seats for women, renaming Pakistan's northwestern province and rules for political parties.

Six people were killed in April when mobs protested against the amendment renaming North West Frontier Province as Khyber Paktunkhwa, angered that the name failed to acknowledge the ethnic Hazara minority.

The Supreme Court has been locked in a standoff with President Asif Ali Zardari's administration since December, when its judges scrapped an amnesty that protected the president and 8,000 others from corruption charges.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has sought to ease fears of a looming clash between the executive and judiciary, pledging to work with judges to uphold justice.

The lower and upper houses of parliament approved in April the 102-clause bill that effectively reversed efforts by successive military rulers to weaken Pakistan's 1973 parliamentary constitution.

The package weakened sweeping powers amassed by military dictators Pervez Musharraf and Zia ul Haq.

The amendments effectively made the president a titular head of state who can only formally appoint heads of the armed forces, dissolve the national assembly and appoint provincial governors on the advice of the prime minister. AGENCIES







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