Discrimination In Appointment Of Female Judges To The Supreme Court

Discrimination In Appointment Of Female Judges To The Supreme Court

To this day, there has not been a single female judge in the Supreme Court of Pakistan, the highest court of the land, despite there being no provision in the law barring women from becoming Supreme Court judges.

The appointment of judges to the higher courts is governed by Article 175A of the Constitution of Pakistan which provides that there shall be a judicial commission chaired by the Chief Justice of Pakistan, which shall recommend names of the judges who are to be appointed. It remains a mystery why this commission has failed to appoint female judges to the Bench when there is nothing stopping them from doing so. A possible explanation that may be ascertained from this is that female judges are not up to the merit or level of competence required for the post, which sounds completely absurd and insulting! Women have proved to be as competent, if not more, wherever there has been a fair intellectual contest. Therefore, a clear pattern of discrimination can be seen in the appointment procedure adopted by the judicial commission.

A newspaper article in The News written by Dr Adil Najam on October 8th 2015 suggests that discrimination has also occurred in the appointment of the Chief Justices of the High Courts. It is interesting to note that the fastest way to becoming a judge of the Supreme Court is to serve as a Chief Justice of the High Court. The Constitution of Pakistan in Article 175A provides that the most senior judge of the High Court shall be appointed as the Chief Justice of the High Court. The article from The News reports two instances where a female judge was the most senior of the Bench and thus should have been appointed as the Chief Justice of the High Court. Firstly, Justice Khalida Rasheed Khan was on her way to becoming the Chief Justice of the Peshawar High Court, being the most senior member of the Bench, but was sent on a foreign assignment. Justice Fakhur-un-Nisa Khokar was undisputedly the most senior judge of the Lahore High Court in 2001. The same tactic was applied in her case as well when she was nominated without her consent to the Environment Tribunal. These women jurists could have easily made it to the Supreme Court. Clearly it was not a lack of competence that stopped them from doing so.

On 12th April 2016, a Bill called The Number of Supreme Court Judges Amendment Act was introduced in the National Assembly by Ms Saman Sultan Jafri. The Bill proposed that an amendment be made in section 2 of The Supreme Court Number of Judges Act 1997 and a proviso be added which shall state that one-fourth of the total number of judges of the Supreme Court shall be women. The Bill was sent to a committee and its fate remains to be decided.

It is a source of embarrassment to see that women forming over 50% of the total population of the country have such a limited role in the superior judiciary of Pakistan. They have managed to have an increased amount of representation in various departments such as the bureaucracy and the police and we have even previously elected a female Prime Minister along with various Members of Parliament. It is high time that the third organ of the state, that is the judiciary, also increases the role of women among its ranks and we get to see female judges being part of the Supreme Court Bench and maybe even as the first female Chief Justice of Pakistan.


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Fahd Asghar Khan

Author: Fahd Asghar Khan

The writer is a student of Law at Quaid-e-Azam University.