Believe it or not, a Petition has been pending in Pakistan’s Supreme Court for sometime now regarding appointment by the Chief Justice of the Islamabad High Court, Mr Justice Muhammad Anwar Khan Kasi of his brother, Idress Khan Kasi as Deputy Registrar within the same High Court as headed by him; and Ghawar Gul Mastoi, as Assistant Registrar, who is nephew of his colleague and the senior most Judge of the High Court after the Chief Justice, Mr. Justice Noorul Haq N. Qureshi.
The Petition is filed by a senior lawyer belonging to the same High Court Bar and a former vice president of the Bar, Chaudhry Muhammad Akram. The latter had a hard time filing this Petition in the Supreme Court for obvious reasons and crossing the hurdle race. Now that it has been filed and heard by Mr Justice Nasirul Mulk once in February, it is not being fixed again for hearing.
The Petition lays out a clear case of misconduct and malfeasance and is like a damocles sword hanging in front of the Chief Justice.
The Accountant General Pakistan Revenue (AGPR) in its report in August pointed out that “not a single appointment (in IHC) has been made on merit and that a number of appointments have been made in relaxation of rules, including absorption of officers and officials (deputationists) in much higher scales than they were holding in their parent departments.”
The report also pointed out that the procedure of advertising the vacancies and filling them through open competition after conducting tests/interviews was “totally ignored in all the appointments,” adding: “It is more alarming that even after advertising the posts of non-gazetted cadres, they were still filled by relaxing the rules and the applicants who had applied against the posts were deprived of their fundamental right to compete for getting the job on merit.”
A former Judge of the IHC, who was not confirmed, and now a district and sessions judge of the KP Judicial Service, Azim Khan Afridi, who was facing charges of making illegal appointments confirmed that the IHC administration made a number of appointments without observing rules.
He denied his involvement in the appointments.
Mr Afridi remained a judge of the IHC from November 2011 to November 2012 when he was reverted to the KP Judicial Service as a sessions judge after the Judicial Commission of Pakistan did not confirm him.
Mr Afridi claimed that the illegal appointments in the IHC were made at the behest of senior Judges of the IHC and the former Supreme Court CJ and the Registrar Faqir Hussain.
“I never recruited even a single relative in the IHC but there are brothers and nephews of other judges who have been inducted in violation of merit and prescribed procedure.”
He added: “They knew that they could not justify these appointments; therefore, they made me a scapegoat to save their skins.”
He claimed that the external audit and hearing in the PAC would bring truth to the open.
It is clear that the Petitioner Chaudhry M Akram is fighting a losing battle in the Supreme Court. Firstly, his Petition was blocked by the Registrar’s Office. When it was finally permitted by Justice Saqib Nisar in January 2014, it is now pending before Justice Nasirul Mulk who is soon to become the new Chief Justice for more than a year. It is interesting that he did not dismiss the Petition on technical grounds while hearing it in January and then in early February 2014 but instead asked the Registrar Islamabad High Court to respond and asked the Attorney General to assist him.
The Registrar in his reply has failed to present any coherent defense except to rely on Rules 16 & 18 of the IHC Establishment (Conditions of Service) Rules 2011 which give wide powers to the Chief Justice and read as follows:
16. Relaxation. The CJ may relax any of these rules, subject to reason in writing, if the CJ is satisfied that a strict application of the rules would cause undue hardship and his decision shall be final in such matter.
18. Powers of the CJ. Nothing in these rules shall be deemed to limit or abridge the powers of the CJ to appoint or promote any person as may appear to him to be just and equitable.
It was not clarified in the Reply by the Registrar if the CJ had given reasons in writing for relaxing these Rules. It would be interesting to see how he justifies relaxing the Rules for his brother and nephew of his colleague Justice.