Breaking glass ceiling: Lahore High Court's first woman CJ Aalia Neelum sworn in

Punjab Governor Saleem Haider Khan administers oath to Justice Neelum

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(Left to right) Punjab Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz attends as Punjab Governor Saleem Haider Khan administers oath to Justice Aalia Neelum in Lahore, on July 11, 2024. — YouTube/GeoNewsLive
(Left to right) Punjab Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz attends as Punjab Governor Saleem Haider Khan administers oath to Justice Aalia Neelum in Lahore, on July 11, 2024. — YouTube/GeoNewsLive
  • Justice Neelum becomes first CJ in LHC's 142-year history.
  • She also served as first female Administrative Judge Punjab ATC.
  • Punjab Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz attends ceremony.

LAHORE: Justice Aalia Neelum shattered the glass ceiling, becoming the first woman chief justice in the 142-year history of the Lahore High Court.

Punjab Governor Saleem Haider Khan administered the oath to the new chief justice at the Governor House, with Punjab Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz in attendance.

Headed by Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa, the Judicial Commission of Pakistan had unanimously greenlighted her elevation after considering the nominations of three judges for the position of LHC chief justice, including Justice Shujaat Ali Khan and Justice Ali Baqar Najafi.

Following the commission's approval, President Asif Ali Zardari had Wednesday officially notified the appointment of Justice Neelum as the high court's chief justice.

She will now be serving as the 47th chief justice of the Lahore High Court since 1920 and 54th overall since March 21, 1882, when this judicial institution was called the Chief Court of Lahore. 

The president had also notified the appointment of Sindh High Court's (SHC) chief justice along with that of Justice Neelum.

The top positions fell vacant after three high court judges, including the former chief justices of SHC and LHC — Justice Aqeel Ahmed Abbasi and Justice Malik Shahzad Ahmad Khan, respectively — had been elevated to the Supreme Court last month.

In May 2023, Justice Neelum was a part of the high court bench that had directed former premier Imran Khan to join the investigation in 121 cases registered against him. In April 2024, Justice Neelum was among the four LHC judges who had received suspicious letters. 

An overview of Justice Neelum's career

State-run APP reported that Justice Neelum — born on November 12, 1966 — is a distinguished jurist with a remarkable career spanning over two decades.

She obtained her LLB degree from Punjab University in 1995 and later earned a Master’s degree in Political Science from the same institution. She also holds diplomas in Sharia Law and Advanced Sharia Law from the Islamic University of  Islamabad, as well as a diploma in Intellectual Property Rights from the University of the Punjab.

Additionally, she has a Bachelor of Education degree from Punjab University of the Punjab.

Justice Neelum began her legal career in 1996, enrolling as an advocate with the Punjab Bar Council. She quickly established herself as a formidable lawyer, excelling in various domains, including Constitutional Law, White-Collar Crime, Civil, Criminal, Anti-Terrorism laws, NAB, Banking Offences, Special Central Courts Law, and Banking Laws.

Her exceptional advocacy skills and in-depth knowledge of the law earned her recognition, and she was enrolled as an advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan in 2008.

Her outstanding performance and dedication to the legal profession led to her elevation as an Additional Judge of the Lahore High Court in 2013. She received confirmation and took oath as a Judge on March 16, 2015, and has since rendered 203 reported judgments on a wide range of legal issues.

Justice Neelum has also served as the Inspection Judge for multiple districts, including Okara, Nankana, Gujrat, Sheikhupura, and Rawalpindi, and has acted as the Monitoring/Administrative Judge for various special courts and tribunals, including as the first female Administrative Judge of Anti-Terrorism Courts of the Punjab.