–In a first, reference against IHC’s Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui to be heard in public on July 30
ISLAMABAD: While the total number of references in Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) remains unknown, it can be inferred that since 2005 till date, more than 300 applications have been entertained by the council as Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui’s notification for open-hearing carried the number 331 on it.
It is pertinent to mention that the number includes petitions, applications, orders, stays that have been disposed of, decided, remain pending, or were declared infructuous. Yet, during the past five years after its ‘revival’, the SJC has not disrobed any justice, whether of Supreme Court or High Court.
Senior Supreme Court Advocate Hamid Khan will be Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui’s counsel during the open trial which is to be held on July 30. According to sources privy to the developments, the trial will be a summary in nature and will be concluded in two or three days. The media can just report the arguments, observation and remarks during the hearing while commentaries and talk shows regarding the hearing will not be allowed.
In order to ensure independence of the judiciary, the Constitution of Pakistan under Article-209 envisions ‘Supreme Judicial Council’ as the only judicial body competent enough to remove a judge of the High Court or Supreme Court “if [he/she is] found guilty of misconduct or incapable to perform duties due to mental or physical incapacity”. However, both the efficacy, sanctity of the SJC and its track record project a rather dismal picture.
Two former and present chief justices of Pakistan, Justice (r) Anwar Zaheer Jamali and Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, had reiterated their stance to rid the higher judiciary of black sheep and individuals with questionable repute.
The SJC has still three references pending before it against Justice Farrukh Irfan of Lahore High Court, whose name surfaced in Panama Papers, and present Chief Justice Muhammad Anwar Khan Kasi of Islamabad High Court (IHC) and Justice Siddiqui of the IHC.
The SJC, after its activation back in November 2015 by then Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali, is yet to decide upon even a single reference against as many as four judges who hail from various high courts.
NO MEDIA COVERAGE:
Due to the in-camera nature of hearings since it is a trial of peer by fellow peers, the actual goings on of the SJC remain hidden from the media gaze. However, a few references did create ripples like one filed against IHC Chief Justice Muhammad Anwar Khan Kasi by Islamabad High Court Bar Association.
According to sources, as of March, 2017, three references are pending before the SJC which include references against IHC Chief Justice Kasi and those against Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddique pertaining to misconduct and misuse of authority for personal use.
Interestingly, some judges – whose references are pending before SJC – have demanded that their trial be heard in open court. The council had previously rejected to do so as it is against the time-tested norms of jurisprudence; that call for in-camera hearing of a trial by fellow peers.
This is the first time that an inquiry is being conducted against any judge of the superior judiciary in an open court. However, a few senior members in the legal fraternity have questioned why the SJC addressed such a demand made by the judge.
“The rule of the Supreme Judicial Council is to conduct in camera trials. If there is some exceptional reason then they opt otherwise. I don’t know on what grounds a judge can demand to conduct them in open,” said Advocate SM Zafar, notable constitutional lawyer and senior Jurist.
He added, “The reason for conducting these proceedings in-camera is to save the judges from slender and disrepute. Open proceedings can bring a bad name for all parties involved.”
Adv Zafar explained that “those judges against whom the cases are underway can take advantage of the open hearings by giving them popular angles. It is a person’s wish to paint a picture portraying him as innocent and those judging him as biased against him.”