Judicial Commission


At the risk of sounding dramatic, todays events in the Supreme Court are the stuff history is made of. In a decade or two, no one will remember the other politicking that makes the headlines these days but posterity shall remember the first time a judicial commission met after the nineteenth amendment to deliberate on the induction of new judges in the Supreme Court. From here on, the nomination has to be ratified by a multi-party, entirely parliamentary committee.

The nations judiciary does not have too stellar a track record when it comes to the rule of law and democracy, bowing down to one dictator after the other. All that seems to have changed with the refusal of the nations superior judiciary to take oath under military strongman Pervez Musharrafs second coup. But if the judiciary has come of age, so has the political class, which has evolved a consensus on the procedure used to install judges in the higher judiciary. For the first time in the countrys beleaguered history, the representatives of the people are also going to be included in the committee that gets to make the decision. It was a heartening consensus, with even the political parties that are deemed to be in favour of the current set of judges on board. An eye on the bigger picture and a measure of institutional activism the parliament being the institution in question will help not just the spirit of representative democracy but, in the long run, the judiciary itself.

An independent judiciary is one of the essential ingredients of a parliamentary system. But nowhere should the independence of the judiciary be interpreted as a judiciary that decides, unchecked, who gets to be in the judiciary. Such an arrangement could be the breeding ground of exclusive cliques. Moreover, a system of checks and balances is also very necessary. The parliament shouldnt stop there. Perhaps it could even think about making the Supreme Judicial Council a parliamentary committee, or at least, one that includes public representatives. Judges being disciplined by their very peers seems like a flawed concept.