Two LHC judges refuse to join larger bench


LAHORE: Judges of a Lahore High Court two-member bench that issued a stay order in Orange Line case refused on Monday to join a five-member larger bench constituted to decide all identical petitions challenging the train and China-Pakistan Economic Corridor projects.

The dissent showed by Justice Abid Aziz Sheikh and Justice Shahid Karim led to the dissolution of the larger bench before its maiden hearing.

Chief Justice Ijazul Ahsan had on Saturday constituted the five-judge larger bench comprising Justice Khalid Mahmood Khan, Justice Shahid Bilal Hassan, Justice Abid Aziz Sheikh, Justice Ali Akbar Qureshi and Justice Shahid Karim.

The chief justice formed the bench after a division bench headed by Justice Khalid Mahmood Khan referred a petition against CPEC to him with a request to set up a larger bench on the matter in the light of a suggestion given by Attorney General Salman Aslam Butt.

The country’s principal law officer had proposed Justice Khan that a larger bench should hear all petitions pertaining to the train project and CPEC for being plans of public importance.

Dissenters had stayed train project

The larger bench was supposed to start its first hearing on Monday as record of all identical petitions had been transferred to it. However, Justice Khan, head of the larger bench, told the attorney general, advocate general and counsel for civil society (petitioner) in his chamber that the bench had dissolved following the dissent expressed by Justice Sheikh and Justice Karim.

Justice Khan sent complete record of the case and an application of civil society challenging formation of the larger bench to chief justice for further decision.

Advocate Azhar Siddique, counsel for the civil society, told that constitution of the larger bench at this stage was a violation of high court rules. It was not transferring a case from one bench to another but laying off a bench in fact, he said before adding the chief justice had already exercised his power to set up larger bench in the case by constituting the division bench of Justice Sheikh and Justice Karim after a single bench had referred the matter to him (CJ).

Another lawyer representing one of the petitioners in the train case said the dissenting judges had a view that they could not join the larger bench since they had already heard the main case at length and also issued a stay order.

After dissolution of the larger bench, Attorney General Mr Butt convened an emergency meeting at his Lahore office and discussed the situation with Advocate General Shakilur Rehman Khan, LDA counsel Shahid Hamid and other law officers.

Sources said Mr Butt was of the view that the government had no need to worry on the dissolution of the larger bench. The attorney general told the meeting that the stance taken by the federal government on the orange line case was strong enough to convince any bench to be formed in future.

The division bench of Justice Sheikh and Justice Karim had on Jan 28 stayed construction work on the train project within 200-foot radius of 11 heritage sites. Later, the federal government had challenged the stay.

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