Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, the now former judge of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) has over the years been no stranger to controversy. His removal from his position by the President on the recommendation of the Supreme Judicial Council is not the first time he has been in the news.
A polarising figure to say the least, his actions, judgments and precedents have been hailed on both extremes of the political spectrum in Pakistan, albeit never jointly. Justice Siddiqui’s actions are almost always either hailed completely by the conservative base as reflections of true religiosity and patriotism, or in other cases, as shining examples of anti-establishment liberal thinking.
Here are some of the major highlights from the former Justice’s career in recent times:
Salman Taseer Murder case: How can Qadri decide who is a blasphemer?
Despite his reputation as a conservative jurist, Justice Siddiqui asked an important question as part of the two-member IHC bench that was hearing the appeal against the Anti Terror Court (ATC)’s death penalty for Mumtaz Qadri: How can Qadri decide who is and is not a blasphemer? The appeal was thrown out and Qadri went on to hang.
“If this state of affairs persists, tomorrow one can be end up being punished for not reciting religious verses or wearing green turbans,” he remarked in court.
February 13 &1 4:
Banning Valentine’s day in Islamabad
Justice Siddiqui on February 13 prohibited the celebration of Valentine’s Day in public spaces and government offices across the country ‘with immediate effect’ on grounds of it being an un-Islamic practice.
The next day, the government complied with the order and revoked permission given to hotels and clubs to celebrate the event.
Online blasphemy case: “Will call the Prime Minister if I have to”
In another decision that undoubtedly endeared him to the conservative base, Justice Siddiqui during his hearing of the online blasphemy case said that he would summon the Prime Minister if he had to.
Observing that the government had not complied with his earlier orders, he said that he would be forced to summon the PM if the government would not take the matter seriously.
Love is still not in the air
Clamping down hard on his decision regarding Valentine’s day the previous year, Justice Siddiqui directed the producer of Geo TV programme ‘Report Card’ to personally appear before the court to explain why a court order placing a ban on public celebration of Valentine’s Day was ridiculed.
Anchor Ayesha Bakhsh and participants Hassan Nisar and Imtiaz Alam to personally appear before the court to explain “why contempt of court proceedings may not be initiated against them.”
ISI must clear out in a week
Justice Siddiqui orders the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) to clear the portion of Khayaban-i-Suharwardy in front of its headquarters in a week.
Siddiqui rules that “neither any resolution has been passed by the Capital Development Authority (CDA) Board nor any formal permission accorded” to allow the spy agency to block the main road for security purposes.
The ISI ignores to orders and does not clear the area in a week.
“ISI is not exempt from court orders”
In a seeming show of judicial solidarity, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar tells the ISI that they are not exempt from court orders against encroachment of public roads.
However, the apex court does dismiss Justice Siddiqui’s verdict to get it done in a week, giving the spy agency free reign to decide by when they are removing the blockades.
“Try me in the open or don’t try me at all”
Supreme Judicial Council grants a request made by Justice Siddiqui to give him an open trial in a corruption reference against him. Back when the reference had first been filed, Justice Siddiqui had said that he would want an open trial or no trial.
This becomes the first such open trial in Pakistan, and the date is set for July 30.
Media barred from commenting on SJC proceedings
SJC bars media from commenting on the upcoming proceedings of the case against Justice Siddiqui, making it less of an open affair than many had been hoping for. Only proceedings in the style of the IHC are to be reported.
“Our phones are tapped and our lives are in danger”
Justice Siddiqui takes another hit at intelligence agencies while hearing a case about missing persons in which a representative of the intelligence agencies had appeared.
He claimed that judges had their phones tapped and that their lives were not secure in the country.
The speech that marked the end
In a no-holds-barred speech at the Rawalpindi Bar Association, Justice Siddiqui levelled serious allegations against the country’s security agencies, accusing the ISI of manipulating the judicial proceedings.
He went on to claim that the agency had approached the IHC chief justice seeking assurance that the agency had approached him to get assurance that deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Captain (retd) Safdar would remain behind the bars until July 25, the election day.
CJP says Siddiqui to be dealt with according to the law
CJP Mian Saqib Nisar hears a petition filed at the SC’s Lahore Registry requesting to take suo motu of Justice Siddiqui’s speech. The CJP says that Justice Siddiqui will be dealt with as per due processes of the law.
Before hearing the petition, Justice Nisar had commented that “I read about the Justice’s comments and felt sad.”
SJC holds first open trial
While another reference regarding his speech stands looming over Justice Siddiqui’s head, the SJC holds their first open trial ever. The SJC hears the corruption reference filed against Justice Siddiqui some years ago.
SJC’s five-member bench led the CJP dismisses all three applications and remarks that the bench intends to conclude the reference within three days.
SJC issues second show-cause notice to Justice Siddiqui
The backlash from Justice Siddiqui’s anti-ISI speech finally materialises as teh SJC issues a second show-cause notice against him, as he is directed to submit a reply by August 28.
This is the second show-cause notice Siddiqui faces from from the SJC in this regard, with the first being for making “unwarranted comments about some important constitutional institutions” while passing an interim order in the Faizabad sit-in case last year.
Justice Siddiqui says he ‘fears for his life’
Justice Siddiqui says that he fears for the life and safety of himself and his family. The judge was supposed to attend a three day workshop in London, but declined because of the supposed threat to his person.
“Due to issuance of show cause notice dated July 31 by the SJC and for the fact that there are serious life threats to me and my family, I do not find it appropriate to leave my family in a state of fear and stress,” he says in a letter to the IHC CJ.
Proceedings against Siddiqui on October 1
The SJC says it will conduct proceeding on October 1 in the reference against Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui over his speech while addressing the District Bar Rawalpindi two months back.
Siddiqui demands a second open trial
A day before the SJC is supposed to take up the misconduct reference against Justice Siddiqui for making the speech at the Rawalpindi Bar Association, he demands that the reference be heard in an open trial.
Justice Siddiqui appears before SJC, counsel urges bench to give IHC judge proper opportunity yo defense
Justice Siddiqui appears in person before the five member bench of the SJC. His counsel argues that “Instead of a summary trial, a proper charge sheet should be issued by SJC so that evidence could be furnished in support of the accused.”
The bench reserves their opinion on whether to proceed further or to recommend to the President of Pakistan for his removal.
President of Pakistan removes Justice Siddiqui on recommendation of SJC
The SJC recommended to the President that Justice Siddiqui be removed from his post because of his speech given at the Rawalpindi Bar Association.
“”The council is unanimously of the opinion that in the matter of making his speech before the District Bar Association, Rawalpindi on [July 21] Mr. Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui […] had displayed conduct unbecoming of a judge . . .”
The President makes the decision in accordance with the recommendations the very same day and Justice Siddiqui is removed from office. As the second most senior judge of the IHC, he would have likely become the court’s Chief Justice in November next month.