Principle of seniority (on Women empowerment/gender discrimination)-DAWN

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FOR the first time in the country’s history, a woman judge is set to be elevated to the Supreme Court.

Prior to this, an invisible barrier of sorts existed for women in the higher judiciary, but with the nomination to the Supreme Court of Justice Ayesha Malik, whose professional excellence has been lauded in legal circles and beyond, it appears that the judicial glass ceiling will finally be shattered.

Indeed, our judicial system should be more inclusive, and it has miles to go before it can correct the serious gender imbalances it contains. But Justice Malik’s elevation from the Lahore High Court to the top court means that she has superseded other judges. Much like the elevation of Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar of the Sindh High Court — an appointment that went against the principle of seniority and stirred controversy — Justice Malik’s appointment, too, has been questioned.

It is unclear why the Judicial Commission of Pakistan has overlooked these judges, but it is evident that the process — which is designed to rule out arbitrary selections — was not followed. It reflects a similar trend that has kept the upper echelons of the judiciary out of the reach of women judges. Once again, there is no doubt that Justice Malik enjoys a fine reputation as a judge. But an out-of-turn appointment can hardly be a win for the judiciary. No doubt, merit, as we have previously noted, is the best criterion in making appointments. However for that, the process of selection must be transparent and clearly defined and uniform standards closely adhered to so that there is no room for confusion or controversy.

Published in Dawn, August 14th, 2021