ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court was requested on Thursday to declare the appointment of retired judges as chief judge or judge of the Supreme Appellate Court of Gilgit-Baltistan illegal and against the Constitution of Pakistan.
A petition filed by Advocate Mohammad Ikram Chaudhry on behalf of Dr Ghulam Abbas, a social activist who is also chairman of the Gilgit-Baltistan National Movement and recipient of the Jinnah Award and Quaid-i-Azam Award, also sought an amendment to the relevant laws requiring the chief judge and judges of the G-B Supreme Appellate Court to serve as judges up to the age of 65 years like judges of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and the AJK Supreme Court.
The federal government through the law ministry, chairmen of G-B Prime Minister`s Secretariat and G-B Legislative Council, Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and G-B Division and G-B Legislative Assembly speaker are respondents in the petition.
The petitioner also requested the apex court to declare unconstitutional Article 60(5, 6) and 60(8) of the Gilgit-Baltistan (Empowerment and Self-Governance Order 2009) because it violated fundamental rights of the citizens of Gilgit-Baltistan and all norms of justice and principles as laid down by the Supreme Court.
The petition sought a suitable amendment to the Empowerment and Self-Governance Order to bring it on a par with the 1973 Constitution of Pakistan and the Interim Constitutional Act of AJK 1974. “This will help ensure independence of the judiciary and fundamental rights in Gilgit-Baltistan.”
The petitioner said that a retired and controversial judge who taken oath under the Nov 3, 2007, Provisional Constitution Order had been appointed as chief justice of the Gilgit-Baltistan Supreme Appellate Court after his retirement which was contrary to the Supreme Court`s July 31 judgment declaring the PCO judges illegal.
The decision was not only unjustified but also amounted to discriminatory treatment with the people of Gilgit-Baltistan, the petitioner contended. “The Gilgit-Baltistan Supreme Appellate Court is not like a service tribunal or election tribunal rather a full-fledged court like the Supreme Court of Pakistan and, therefore, it should be treated like an independent court.”
In 1999, the Supreme Court held that the people of Gilgit-Baltistan (then Northern Areas) were citizens of Pakistan and, therefore, entitled to same fundamental rights as available to the citizens of Pakistan. It had also ordered the federal government to establish an appellate forum to hear appeals against decisions of the apex court of Gilgit-Baltistan. In 2005, the government had established a court of appeal which was renamed in 2007 as the Supreme Appellate Court Gilgit. It is still functioning under the Northern Areas Governance Order 1994.
The petitioner contended that terms, conditions and privileges of Supreme Court judges in Pakistan regarding the retirement age were available to AJK judges, but the same were denied to Gilgit-Baltistan judges. “They are appointed on contract as per the 2009 order which militates against Articles 175 and 203 of the Constitution and even is in conflict with the chief court/high court position under the law.”
The petitioner asked that when the retirement age of the chief justice and judges of AJK Supreme Court as well as the chief justice and judges of the Supreme Court of Pakistan is 65 years why the judges in Gilgit-Baltistan were being appointed for a period of three years.