Aalia Neelum Becomes First Woman Chief Justice of LHC

Justice Aalia Neelum became the Lahore High Court’s first woman chief justice in a historic ceremony in 2024. It was a significant milestone for Pakistan’s legal system.

Justice Aalia Neelum has been sworn in as the Chief Justice of the Lahore High Court (LHC), making history as the first woman to hold this top position in the court.

Ceremony: The oath-taking ceremony took place at the Governor’s House. Punjab Governor Sardar Salim Haider Khan and Punjab Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz administered the oath. Other notable attendees included several LHC judges, Punjab Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz, Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar, and the inspector-general of Punjab.

Appointment: President Asif Ali Zardari approved Justice Neelum’s appointment a day before the ceremony. Moreover, the Judicial Commission of Pakistan (JCP), led by Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa, selected her from among three nominees.

Background: The position of Chief Justice at the LHC became vacant when Justice Malik Shahzad Ahmad Khan was elevated to the Supreme Court on June 7. Justice Shujaat Ali Khan served as the acting Chief Justice until Justice Neelum’s appointment.

Justice Aalia Neelum’s Career

  • Birth: November 12, 1966
  • Education: LLB degree from the University of Punjab in 1995
  • Professional Milestones:
    • Enrolled as an advocate in 1996
    • Became an advocate of the Supreme Court in 2008
    • Elevated to the LHC in 2013
    • Sworn in as a permanent judge on March 16, 2015
    • Delivered 203 exemplary judgments
    • First woman administrative judge of anti-terrorism courts in Punjab
    • Played a key role in setting up courts for gender-based violence cases and improving procedures for e-courts in Punjab

Recent Involvements:

  • Part of the bench directing former Premier Imran Khan to join investigations in 121 cases in May 2023
  • Among the four LHC judges who received suspicious letters in April 2024

Significance: Justice Neelum’s appointment is a significant step forward for gender equality in Pakistan’s judiciary. Her achievements follow other milestones, such as Justice Syeda Tahira Safdar becoming the first woman Chief Justice of the Balochistan High Court in 2018 and Justice Ayesha A. Malik being appointed to the Supreme Court in 2021.

Justice Neelum is now the 47th chief justice of the LHC since 1920 and the 54th overall since the court’s establishment in 1882. Her journey and achievements symbolize the breaking of gender barriers and pave the way for future generations of women in the legal profession.

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