–Justice Jawwad Khawaja says govt cherry-picked reference against Justice Isa from amongst 300 applications pending with SJC
Former chief justice of Pakistan Jawwad S. Khawaja has said that the most important factor in accountability is transparency.
In a recent interview, the former top judge of the country shared his views on the current accountability drive and its credibility.
To a question pertaining to the mode of filing a reference against a serving judge, Khawaja said that “a reference [against a judge] can be filed for violating the Code of Conduct for Judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts, 2009,” while adding that the “procedure for filing a reference is laid down in the Supreme Judicial Council Procedure of Inquiry, 2005”.
“[However] the [accountability] procedure should be strictly followed,” he asserted.
While commenting upon the accountability culture, the former judge observed that the “most crucial factor [in accountability] is transparency” while adding that “it should be across the board for all judges”.
He was of the view that “selecting few particular applications for hearing and putting more than 300 applications on the back-burner does create an impression of arbitrariness”. Khawaja reiterated that “it does not fulfill the criteria of transparency”.
When asked about the reference filed against Supreme Court Justice Qazi Faez Isa, Khawaja said that “from the information that has been published in the newspapers, it is clear that the reference has been filed and presented in a non-transparent manner”.
The ex-judge says there were more than 300 references pending before the Supreme Judicial Council before the filing of the reference against Justice Isa. “Naturally, one wonders why a reference that has been filed only recently is going to be heard [immediately], ie on the 14th of June, while the fate of the other prior-in-time references remains unknown? In my opinion, this one act is enough to cast doubts on the proceedings of the Council,” he stated.
If the SJC hears references without any sequence, then I’m afraid the credibility of the institution would be undermined, he added
Speaking about the performance of the SJC, the ex-judge pointed out the obscure process that the council undertakes while holding judges accountable.
“While the accountability of the judiciary is a commendable step, it must be carried out in a fully transparent manner. Otherwise, the whole nation would have cause for concern. About two years ago, the Pakistan Bar Council also formally sought performance-related data from the Supreme Judicial Council. They sought information regarding the number of references which have been instituted, the number of pending references, and the decisions on the references. However, the Supreme Judicial Council refused to disclose any information at all. As a result, even today, no one knows for sure exactly how many references have been filed, how many are pending and how many have been decided. Can one call this sort of accountability transparent?” he asked.
He also vouched for Justice Isa, saying he was a man of unimpeachable character and honesty.
“He is not driven by greed. He is engrossed in discharging the duties of his office. While I have never discussed this matter with Justice Isa, I think he is one of those few judges who chose not to receive any plot from the government. That is my opinion. The Supreme Judicial Council can ask him for itself,” he added.
Speaking about the conduct of judges, the former judge said a judge should be “God-fearing [and] truthful of the tongue”.
According to the former CJP, a judge should not deliver speeches in any public forum outside a courtroom nor should he embroil himself in a public controversy other than those with which he is confronted in the courtroom.
However, it is no secret that in the last two years, these provisions of the code have been blatantly violated, he said, adding the SJC conspicuously chose to maintain silence on those violations.
Speaking about judges getting plots from the government, the ex-CJP said the judges were not entitled to plots and other additional benefits from the government since they were not employees of the government nor should they be government loyalists.
He said obtaining valuable plots from the government for peanuts amounts to receiving gifts is in violation of the Code of Conduct. He said the SJC should take notice of this matter.