Judicial waste

Daily: Daily Times
Date: 14.02.18

On 6 February 2018, outgoing Chief Justice of Lahore High Court Justice Mansoor Ali Shah
addressed a full court reference in his honour on his elevation to the Supreme Court (SC),
as reported in the media. Justice Mansoor Ali Shah said that “the inside mafia in every
institution support status quo and put up resistance to change and reforms.” Further, he
dispelled the impression that the contract for the IT project at Lahore High Court (LHC) was
given to any of his relatives, calling such ideas ‘propaganda’.

The label “mafia” is now ripe for making its way into the judicial lexicon. The tag is now used
not only to condemn a politician, be he an elected representative of the people, but it is
also used to belittle any (supposed) opponents. The tyranny attached to this docket is that
it is a decoy used to hide one’s own faults. All it offers a state of self-delusion.

Even if the IT project at the LHC were not given to any of Justice Mansoor Ali Shah’s
relatives, there are other issues being spilled over into the media exposing nepotism
practiced by him. For instance, at the occasion, Justice Mansoor Ali Shah did not reveal to
the tax payers that a kind of Judicial Kitchen was functional at the LHC to meet the
administrative needs of which an officer no less than the post of Deputy Registrar (Food
and Beverages) was appointed in November 2017 (through the Advertisement No. 06/2017
and Job Code: G-63-17), displayed at the job section of the website of the LHC.

The added tyranny is that the person hired to run the kitchen has been given the Basic Pay
Scale of 19 Grade – the grade to reach which a civil servant of the central government
spends more than a decade serving the country, and the grade to grasp which a Judicial
Magistrate of the provincial judiciary has to be promoted to the post of the District and
Sessions Judge. Interestingly, the education qualification required was not Masters or PhD
but just “Graduation (at least 2nd Class) and a Diploma or related qualification in
Hospitality.” The experience required was minimum 5 years in institutional catering. This
was not enough. The devil lied in the details. In the instruction section of the advertisement,
an interesting point was mentioned: “Only shortlisted applicants will be called for Test and
Interview. Criterion for shortlisting shall be determined by the Authority”. That is, the
applicants were kept in the dark on the criterion for shortlisting them and it was left to the
discretion of the “Authority” to set any criteria. This is called discretion – the same
discretion the judges loathe to find to have been exercised by civil servants or politicians.
The point is simple: if a civil servant or a politician exercises any such absolute authority, he
is declared dishonest of the worse sort, but when the same is practised in a high court, by a
judge, no feathers are ruffled. No one is held accountable.

On 26 September 2016, in open court, the SC announced its decision on a Constitution
Petition No. 03 of 2014 (and C.M.A. No. 8540 of 2015) filed by Advocate Chaudhry
Muhammad Akram against the Registrar, Islamabad High Court (IHC), on irregularities in
appointments at the IHC. Deciding in favour of the petitioner, the bench of the SC wrote in
paragraph 85: “If the competent authority itself starts cherry picking by deliberately ignoring
and overlooking meritorious candidates in appointment exercising powers under Rule 26 of
the Lahore High Court or Rule 16 of the Islamabad High Court, then the image of the
institution will be tainted beyond repair.”  The point is simple: any appointment done at the
expense of public money is open to public scrutiny and anyone violating public trust is
subject to public accountability.

The matter did not rest here. The said advertisement announced by the LHC was lumbered
with another pejorative instruction: “Qualifying/pass marks in the Test and Interview shall be
determined by the Authority.” That is, the applicants did not know even how much would be
the pass marks. The advertisement flung squarely everything into the lap of the “Authority”.
In Urdu, such a condition is called “andheri nagri” (i.e. a dark kingdom).

It is obvious that the advertisement was devised in such a way as to fulfil the legal need of
advertising a post. However, the criteria to select a candidate were masked leaving space
open to the Authority to do whatever he wants to do. The advertisement is a classic
example of prevarication. The victim were innocent people having no recourse to redress
their grievances. Whether or not a candidate agitated on the highhandedness, the kind of
invidious impression the rejected candidates might have carried along can only be
imagined.

Interestingly, paragraph 85 of the said judgement of the SC further says: “Such practice
may lead to distrust of the public in the judicial institution of the country. We could not allow
denial of justice to those candidates who merit appointment nor could we encourage
anyone to bypass transparent process of recruitment provided under the Rules. We have
already cited certain instances showing the mode and manner in which the appointments
were made by abusing the authority.”

Currently, Chief Justice of the SC Justice Saqib Nisar is riding the wave of judicial activism.
What does he say about the advertisement under discussion and similar malpractices done
by “the Authority” of the LHC? Who were the “mafia” recruiting candidates at the expense of
public money after issuing such insidious advertisements? On 11 February, at the Lahore
Registry, Justice Saqib Nisar showed his concern over the hospital waste causing health
hazard. What about the judicial waste causing judicial hazard? The point is simple: Put your
own house in order first. The higher judiciary has also rotten to the core squandering public
money and breaching public trust. Malpractices and irregularities are common. If the laity
do not highlight them timely, it does not mean everything is satisfactory.       

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