IHC seeks another extension in tenure of accountability judge.
ISLAMABAD -- The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has asked the ministry of law and justice to give another extension to the tenure of District and Sessions Judge (D and SJ) Mohammad Bashir as the judge of the accountability court-I of Islamabad.
The judge is conducting trials of ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his family members and former finance minister Ishaq Dar.
The Supreme Court in its July 28, 2017 verdict had directed the accountability court to conclude the trials in six months. Since the references were filed on Sept 7 last year, the six-month deadline would expire on March 6.
The judge conducting trial of Sharifs, Dar has previously been given extension
However, it is difficult for the accountability judge to conclude the trial proceedings within the given timeframe since the National Accountability Bureau has filed supplementary references and Mr Sharif is likely to bring some evidence in his defence.
Judge Bashir has been working in the accountability court since 2012. As per the rules and policy of the law ministry on special courts and tribunals, appointment of a judge in an accountability court can be made only for a period of three years.
The judge has already been given extension in 2015 for three years which is going to expire on March 13.
The IHC wants Mr Bashir to continue as the accountability judge at a time when Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar has promised the lawyers of Islamabad of rotation of judges of subordinate judiciary serving in the capital to other places though they had been appointed to serve within Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) only.
Interestingly, services of judges for special courts of the federal government Anti-Terrorism Court, Banking Court, Control of Narcotics Substances and other tribunals are requisitioned from the provincial high courts and the IHC only for a period of three years.
This was the reason that the law ministry on Feb 21 requested the IHC for 'nomination of a judicial officer for appointment as judge of the accountability court.'
In response, the IHC registrar on Feb 24 wrote a letter to the ministry telling it that 'this court is facing paucity of judicial officers, particularly of the cadre of D and SJ [BPS-21]. Presently, out of 15 sanctioned posts of D and SJs in the Islamabad Judicial Service, 13 are working [out of whom, services of 6 D and SJs are acquired from Provincial High Courts on deputation basis].'
He further said that the Supreme Court of Pakistan in a suo motu case also issued directives to fill up all vacant posts of special courts/tribunals.
'The Honourable Chief Justice of this court has been pleased to nominate Mr Mohammad Bashir, D and SJ, for appointment as Judge Accountability Court-I.'
Thus the IHC sought reappointment of or extension in the tenure of Mr Bashir as accountability judge.
The law ministry has already recommended the nomination of D and SJ Mohammad Arshad Malik as the judge of Accountability Court-II. The IHC administration last week nominated Mr Malik for appointment as D and SJ.
Sources in the ministry said that the IHC letter seeking an extension in Mr Bashir's tenure as accountability judge has been referred to the relevant officials and, after due deliberations, the IHC would be informed about the opinion of the law ministry.
The sources said that since Mr Bashir had been working in the accountability court of Islamabad since its establishment in 2012, the IHC administration would be told that the judge had already served a term in Islamabad double than the permissible period of three years and if another extension was given, he would stay for another three years.
The sources said that after the appointment of Mr Malik in the Accountability Court-II, there would be 14 D and SJs in subordinate judiciary of the IHC, adding that the high court administration might transfer Mr Bashir to another court and someone from the existing strength may be nominated as the judge of Accountability Court-I.
However despite the above-mentioned facts, the law ministry is ready to extend Mr Bashir's tenure as accountability judge and will not resist in case the IHC administration insists on his reappointment, according to the sources.
Mr Bashir is hearing three references Avenfield Properties, Flagship Investment and Al-Azizia against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and retired Captain Mohammad Safdar.
He is also conducting trial of former finance minister Ishaq Dar in the reference related to assets beyond known sources of income.