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Justice Hilali to take acting charge as first woman CJ of Peshawar High Court (PHC)

PESHAWAR: Justice Musarrat Hilali became the first female acting chief justice of the Peshawar High Court following her appointment by the president on Wednesday.

As PHC Chief Justice Qaiser Rashid Khan is set to retire on Thursday (today), the law and justice ministry issued two notifications for appointment of acting chief justices. Senior puisne judge Justice Rooh-ul-Amin Khan, who was also appointed acting chief justice, will serve as the CJ for only one day as he is scheduled to retire on March 31 (Friday).

As per the notification, Justice Hilali will act as the PHC chief justice from April 1 till the appointment of a regular chief justice on the recommendation of the Judicial Commission of Pakistan (JCP).

The JCP has yet to schedule a meeting under Article 175-A of the Constitution for the appointment of a regular chief justice of the PHC.

Born in Peshawar on Aug 8, 1961, Justice Hilali, who is presently the senior-most judge of the high court after Justice Rooh-ul-Amin Khan, will retire on Aug 7 this year.

She received her law degree from Khyber Law College, University of Peshawar, and was enrolled as an advocate of district courts in 1983. She was enrolled as an advocate of the high court in 1988 and that of the Supreme Court in 2006.

Justice Hilali has earned several distinctions in her career — first as a civil society activist and member of the bar and then her elevation to the bench. Known as an outspoken human rights activist, she remained office-bearer of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and also headed its Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chapter on different occasions.

Justice Hilali was an active member of the Peshawar High Court Bar Association and served as its first female secretary, vice president and general secretary. She was twice elected as executive member of the Supreme Court Bar Association for 2007-08 and 2008-09.

She remained one of the most active lawyers in KP during the famous lawyers’ movement, which was started after a reference was filed against then chief justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry in March 2007. During that movement, one of her legs got fractured when police raided her residence for arresting her.

Justice Hilali also served against different key legal positions, becoming the first female in the province on all those posts. She served as first woman additional advocate general from November 2001 to March 2004 and as chairperson of the KP Environmental Protection Tribunal.

She was also the first ombudsperson appointed in 2010 under the Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act 2010. She was elevated to the bench as additional judge on March 26, 2013, and was confirmed as a judge of the high court on Mar 13, 2014.

If appointed as regular chief justice, Justice Hilali will be the second female judge to serve on that post in any of the high court as earlier Justice Syeda Tahira Safdar was appointed as Chief Justice of Balochistan High Court in 2018.

Source: Dawn