ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Anwar Zaheer Jamali on Monday dismissed an appeal, seeking the activation of the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) and publicising of the number of references against superior court judges.
“I am of the opinion that the prayer made by the petitioner in his petition under Article 184(3) of the Constitution [violates] the spirit of Articles 209 and 211 of the Constitution, read with the [SJC’s] Procedure of Inquiry,” the chief justice observed in a two-page order.
On Sept 29, the chief justice had reserved ruling on an appeal moved by senior counsel Raheel Kamran Sheikh, challenging a registrar office order of May 6 returning his petition.
The SJC was established under Article 209 of the Constitution to inquire into allegations levelled against judges of the Supreme Court and high courts over misconduct or an inability to perform their duties for reasons of mental or physical incapacity.
Turns down petition asking for information about cases pending before SJC
But Article 211 provides a protection to the proceedings of the council, stating that neither its report to the president nor the removal of a judge can be called into question in any court of law.
“It is one of the important aspects of the proceedings before SJC that at every stage of its proceedings, within the parameters of Rule 13 [of the SJC Procedure of Inquiry 2005] and other enabling provisions, complete confidentiality and secrecy is to be maintained about the actions taken by the council,” the chief justice said in his order.
Addressing the arguments raised by the counsel regarding Article 19-A, which ensured the right to information, the order explained that the provision itself provided for reasonable restrictions and therefore will have no overriding effect on the constitutional provision.
“This being the position, the office’s objections are sustained and this appeal is dismissed,” the order concluded.
“I am disappointed with the order,” Raheel Sheikh told Dawn. “Despite categorical objections that it was not appropriate for the chief justice to decide the appeal, the procedure adopted is contrary to the precedent set by judges of this court when they declined to sit on the council to hear a misconduct reference against former chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry,” he regretted.
“When the judiciary wants transparent accountability for everyone else, why does it not seem ready to be transparent in its own procedure for accountability?” the counsel asked.
This was done, Raheel Sheikh recalled, despite the fact that the chief justice himself had made the resolve for transparent accountability within the judiciary in his speeches.
Mr Sheikh said he was seriously considering moving a review petition before the Supreme Court against Monday’s order.
In his petition, he had argued that the SJC had been barely functional since its establishment, and conceded that though it may be in the public interest to withhold information about the nature of any particular complaint to avoid scandalising a judge, there was no justification for withholding information regarding the total number of complaints received by the council.
Both the bar and the bench have voiced their concerns about the state of affairs, the petition said, adding that in its 211th meeting of June 13, 2015, the Pakistan Bar Council had adopted a resolution requesting the SJC to decide references currently pending before it solely on merit and without any further delay.
Published in Dawn, October 4th, 2016