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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court asked the chief justice Sindh High Court (SHC), and the chairman Service Tribunal to formulate any standing instructions to settle down a reasonable timeline for making decisions on pending service appeals before the Judicial Service Tribunal.

A two-judge SC bench comprising Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar and Justice Irfan Saadat Khan held that against the Sindh Subordinate Judicial Service Tribunal, High Court of Sindh at Karachi, in Service Appeal No 15/2003, whereby, the appeal of the petitioner (Abdullah Channah) was dismissed.

The apex court’s judgment said: “It would be most advantageous and strategic if the honourable Chief Justice, Sindh High Court, and the learned Chairman of the Tribunal, formulate any Standing Instructions to settle down a reasonable timeline for making decisions of pending service appeals before the learned Tribunal according to ageing from the date of institution.”

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The bench ordered that a copy of this judgment may be transmitted to the CJ SHC and the chairman of the tribunal.

The SHC advertised the post of Judicial Magistrates (BPS-17) in Sindh vide advertisement dated 30.04.1991 and after fulfilment of codal formalities, 22 names were recommended vide their letter dated 03.12.1991, in which, the name of the petitioner was at serial number 6. The posts of civil judges were advertised and the names of 26 candidates were recommended for the posts. The High Court issued a seniority list of judicial magistrates on 01.12.1996, whereby, the petitioner and other judicial magistrates were assigned seniority, w.e.f. 22.04.1992. Similarly, the list of respondents No 2 to 60 was issued on the same date and they were shown junior to the petitioner because their notification of appointment was issued on 29.04.1992 i.e., after one week of the notification of the petitioner.

On 16.05.1998, the petitioner was promoted to the rank of senior civil judge but his existing seniority was not followed; therefore, he filed representation which ultimately came up before the Administration Committee, and vide order dated 20.03.1999, it was resolved that the incumbent of the posts of judicial magistrates and civil judges (respondents 2 to 69) appointed on the recommendations of the High Court shall be considered as combined cadre for reckoning their seniority on the basis of their date of appointment. The petitioner further alleged that the seniority issued on 02.01.2003 was in accordance with law but it was changed by the then Administrative Committee of the High Court without any valid and legal justification vide letter dated 04.06.2003. The petitioner, after sending representation, filed his Service Appeal, which remained pending for about 19 years.

The court noted that the service appeal remained pending for the last 19 years without any decision on merits. No doubt, at times, the adjournments are sought by the counsel for the appellants and the law officers from advocate general office before the Tribunal which also become the cause of delay but keeping any service appeal pending for 19 years is also unjustified and unwarranted.

As a result of such a long pendency and no decision on appeal, of course, certain developments are made by the efflux of time which makes and spoils the entire purpose of filing appeal infructuous and worthless. Either the appellants have reached the age of superannuation or died.

In the present case, the Acting Registrar, SHC, intimated the apex court that many respondents either retired from judicial service or died, so no seniority issue can be decided against such persons who are not in arena.

“No doubt, we rightly expect from the subordinate judiciary to curtail the docket and backlog of old cases and accelerate the proceedings for an early disposal but in unison, if the service appeals of judicial officers are kept pending for 19 years, then obviously, it creates serious frustration and despondence amongst them and many times due to the bottleneck of such service appeals, they half-heartedly lost their interest.”

If the seniority issue is not thrashed out within a reasonable period of time, naturally it affects the chance and venue of progression. Similarly, if other appeals against minor and major penalties will remain pending for an indefinite period during the service tenure, it will also become a cause of mental stress and exasperation.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024


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