ISLAMABAD: The Sup­reme Court wondered on Wednesday why judges should be treated as holy cows, and appointed two amici curiae (friends of the court) to assist it in deciding a case instituted by a sitting judge of the Islamabad High Court seeking open trial by the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) hearing a reference against him on misconduct.

“The question is why the judiciary and the judges be treated like holy cows,” observed Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, a member of the five-judge bench that had taken up the petition of Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui.

Justice Gulzar Ahmed, who is heading the bench, appointed senior lawyers Muneer A. Malik and Shahid Hamid as amici curiae and ordered Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf to furnish the federal government’s reply in two weeks detailing reasons why they wanted in-camera proceedings of the reference.

That would help the petitioner to know what stance the federal government had taken so that he could also file a rejoinder, the court said.

On Wednesday senior counsel Makhdoom Ali Khan, who represents Justice Shaukat Aziz, said his client had complete faith in the members of the SJC but he did not have any faith in the procedure laid down by the council hearing a reference against him.

The petitioner has already questioned paragraph 13 of SJC Procedure of Inquiry 2005 which deals with in-camera proceedings by saying that the section is in violation of Articles 4, 10A, 18 and 25 of the constitution because it does not allow trial before the council to take place in accordance with the law.

Justice Gulzar Ahmed also observed that the current matter did not concern an individual but the entire judiciary.

In his petition, Justice Shaukat Aziz is asking for an open trial of his reference instituted on the complaint by some retired employee of the Capital Development Authority (CDA) on the charge of refurbishment of his official residence beyond entitlement.

The petition argued that the SJC had erred by observing that it was on account of the sanctity of the institution and the dignity of the applicant and other judges whose matters were inquired into by the council that in-camera proceedings were expedient.

It argued that the sanctity of no institution could be protected by making it a cloistered virtue.

Published in Dawn, November 9th, 2017

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