Justice Aalia Neelum took oath as Chief Justice of Lahore High Court Thursday, becoming the first female to assume the top slot.  The oath-taking ceremony was held at the Governor’s House, and it was administered by Punjab Governor Sardar Saleem Haider Khan. It was attended by LHC judges: Justice Ali Baqar Najafi, Justice Abid Aziz Sheikh, Justice Syed Shahbaz Rizvi, and Justice Shams Mehmood Mirza. It was also attended by Punjab Chief Minister, Maryam Nawaz, Law Minister, Azam Nazeer Tarar, and the Inspector-General of Punjab.

Her appointment was approved just a day before the ceremony by President Asif Ali Zardari after the approval from the Judicial Commission of Pakistan led by the Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa. The nomination of Justice Neelum was considered along with the elevation of acting CJ Shujaat Ali Khan and Justice Ali Baqar Najafi.

Justice Neelum was born on November 12, 1966, and did her LLB from the University of Punjab in 1995. She was enrolled as an advocate in 1996 and as an Advocate of the Supreme Court in 2008. She was elevated to the LHC in 2013 and confirmed as a permanent judge on March 16, 2015. She has so far written 203 excellent judgments and remained the first female administration judge of anti-terrorism courts in the province.

She had a leading role in the establishment of separate courts for gender-based violence cases and the formulation of standard working procedures with regard to the recording of evidence and statements during the trials in e-courts across Punjab.

The post of LHC CJ had fallen vacant after Justice Malik Shahzad Ahmad Khan was elevated to the Supreme Court on June 7. Justice Shujaat Ali Khan took additional charge as the CJ, in the wake of the vacancy caused. Justice Neelum stands third in the seniority list of LHC judges and had been under consideration for the slot of CJ during the JCP meeting held on June 7.

Her appointment came in the wake of other landmark events for women within the ranks of the judiciary of Pakistan, with the appointment of Justice Syeda Tahira Safdar as the first woman Chief Justice of the Balochistan High Court in 2018 and Justice Ayesha A. Malik as the first woman judge to the Supreme Court in 2021.

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