The government has cleared an ordinance enabling it to sidestep the High Court Chief Justice's role in appointing former judges as chairmen and members of a panel that approves or rejects government dossiers recommending detention of a person under the Public Safety Act.
The ordinance was passed by the cabinet months after former Chief Justice Badar Durrez Ahmed recommended former High Court judge Justice (retired) Muzaffar Hussain Attar for the position of chairman PSA advisory board.
If the ordinance is cleared by the Governor, appointments to the board would be made by the government on recommendations of a committee headed by the chief secretary and comprising administrative secretaries of home and law departments.
Currently, the chairman and members of the board are appointed by the government in consultation with the Chief Justice.
Now, according to the ordinance, the Chief Justice would be consulted only in case a sitting judge is appointed as chairman or member of the board.
"The sitting judges are rarely appointed in different boards and institutions. The courts usually don't spare sitting judges for these assignments," an official said.
He said the ordinance would facilitate the government to appoint chairman and members of the board as per its "own whims and fancies".
A few officials in the home department and judiciary, who are privy to these appointments, said the government sat over Justice Badr Durrez's recommendations made in December 2017 all these months.
"The government is either averse to appointing Justice Attar or it perceives that its role is diminished by a Chief Justice recommending only one name," a home department official said.
Justice (retd) Attar told Greater Kashmir that he learnt about then Chief Justice's recommendation in March this year.
An official spokesman had last evening said the ordinance would provide the government a wider choice of retired eligible persons for posts of chairmen and members of the advisory boards.
The position of the PSA board chairman has been vacant since March 7 this year after Justice (retd) BL Bhat completed his extended tenure.
The board is the competent body to opine whether a dossier placed before it by government is sufficient to detain a person. Its recommendations are binding on the government.
Post 1990, human rights groups have criticised the board for "acting like an arm of the government and turning down fewer PSA dossiers".
Since 2000, Justice (retd) ML Koul and Justice (retired) BL Bhat have headed the board. Koul served as its chairman for 12 years before he was replaced by Bhat in 2012.