In this article in The News, Mariana Baabar makes a really strange comparison between the current issue of judicial appointments in Pakistan and the controversy over the decision of the five-member Supreme Court collegium to not appoint former Delhi High Court chief justice Ajit Prakash Shah to the Supreme Court.
First of all, in her haste to call President Zardari “a dictator-like civil president” the author forgets that it was the Chief Justice, not the President who disregarded the convention of elevating High Court Chief Justices to the Supreme Court. Secondly, even a brief look at the Outlook India article that she references shows that the issue in the case of Justice Ajit Prakash Shah is exactly the opposite of what she is suggesting. In India, like in Pakistan, the role of the executive is very limited in judicial appointments. Unlike in Pakistan where apparently the Chief Justice can do whatever he wants, in India, a five-member collegium of Supreme Court judges is responsible for the decision regarding judicial appointments. Justice Shah’s appointment was apparently blocked by Justice S.H. Kapadia. The author of the Outlook India article speculates that Justice Kapadia’s objection to Justice Shah’s elevation is based on personal animosity but notes that it’s difficult to ascertain the reasons for his objections since the process of judicial appointments is so opaque and arbitrary.
If anything, this example, rather than highlighting the trials and tribulations of Iftikhar Chaudhry’s “brother judges” at the hands of a dictator-like Executive is another example of the dangers of the judiciary having the power to arbitrarily decide who gets to be appointed to the Supreme Court and who doesn’t with no accountablity to any other branch of government. But let it never be said that The News writers let facts get in the way of a good story!