With the Supreme Court suspending a parliamentary committees proposal to drop four Lahore High Court judges, a new front seems to have opened, this time more on account of the committee than anything else. Out of the list of 24 judges recommended by the JCP for appointment, the committee had objected to four but had failed to convey the reasons as required under the law. It remains to be seen if the face-off would be defused, or get further prolonged, when the reasons are conveyed in the next couple of days as promised by the Attorney General.
Of late, the Supreme Court has had a number of confrontations with the government, legal community and a section of judiciary. This is in a way understandable as the court has only recently achieved full independence through a historic struggle and is naturally keen to assert it. It goes to the apex courts credit that its activism has provided relief to the common man and benefited the state in many cases. At times, however, there were questions about whether the court had the capacity or the expertise to be able to resolve the issues it had taken up. A number of legal experts also questioned whether the court should have taken up issues like the NRO.
The government had protested over the court nominating the personnel to conduct certain enquiries. The apex court had also rejected a number of appointments and promotions made by the government considered by the executive to be its sole privilege. The government delayed the implementation of the orders for some time but finally yielded. The recent decision by the full court for the appointment of two Supreme Court additional judges has brought it into conflict with the legal community which has accused it of employing one set of standards for the government and another for itself. Both the SCBA and the Punjab Bar Council have strongly criticised the decision and vowed to fight it. Good governance requires that the institutions keep themselves strictly confined to their turfs. By deciding to try the PCO judges for defamation and defining the judicial authority of non-functioning judges, the court came into conflict with a section of the judiciary where judges challenged each others conduct. It is time the Supreme Court reviews whether there is need to do something to nullify the growing perception of its being an over-reacher.