ISLAMABAD: A sitting Islamabad High Court judge facing a reference in the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) has been issued yet another notice for making unnecessary and unwarranted comments about some “important constitutional institution.”

“Such comments had prima facie travelled beyond the scope of the lis under consideration and had seemingly tendency to undermine the respect otherwise due to such constitutional institution,” says the show-cause issued against Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui.

The SJC is an apex constitutional body constituted under Article 209 of the Constitution and holds inquiries into allegations against superior court judges and other constitutional post holders.

SJC asks Justice Siddiqui to file reply to ‘unwarranted comments about some important constitutional institution’

On Thursday, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, who heads the SJC, told a meeting of the Islamabad High Court Bar Association that the council had disposed of 43 references against different judges and the rest of the pending references would be cleared by June.

The fresh notice was issued by the SJC on a reference moved by Advocate Kulsum Khaliq on behalf of Member National Assembly (MNA) Jamshed Ahmed Dasti.

The reference alleged that during one of the hearings of a case against the 20-day-long Faizabad sit-in the judge had objected to the compromise reached between the federal government and the protesting religious groups. The compromise was facilitated by the armed forces.

After scrutinising the reference, the SJC at a meeting held on Feb 6 opined that the judge was guilty of misconduct.

The judge is also facing a reference on misconduct moved earlier on a complaint by a retired employee of the Capital Development Authority (CDA) for alleged refurbishment of his official residence beyond entitlement.

Against the earlier reference, the judge filed a petition in the SC seeking an open trial by the SJC.

The petition is pending before a five-judge SC bench headed by Justice Gulzar Ahmed. At the last hearing, the court requested Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar to consider constituting another bench since one of the members of the bench, Justice Dost Mohammad Khan, would reach the age of superannuation in March.

In his petition, Justice Siddiqui argued that he had nothing to hide and his dignity was not compromised if the proceedings against him were held in the open.

“The very guardians of justice cannot deny their brethren the protection of a public hearing due process,” his petition said.

In the fresh notice, Justice Siddiqui has been asked to furnish his reply/explanation to the council’s secretariat within 14 days.

In case no reply/explanation is received, it will deemed to be considered as if the judge has nothing to offer in reply and the council will be free to proceed with the inquiry as deemed appropriate.

The matter will be taken up by SJC in its meeting of March 7.

The notice stated that comments and observation made by the judge during the sit-in hearing were like questioning the manner in which an administrative issue was resolved and also questioned participation by some officials in resolution of the issue which apparently fell outside the judicial domain.

This act of the judge, the notice stated, amounts to misconduct as envisaged in the provisions of Article II of the code of conduct prescribed by the SJC for judges.

The code of conduct for the superior court judges requires them to demonstrate highest qualities of intellect and character, to be God-fearing, law abiding, wise in opinion, cautious and forbearing, blameless and untouched by greed, to keep their conduct whether official or private free from impropriety.

The judges under the code of conduct are also supposed to avoid all possible or potential conflict of interest, not to be swayed by any consideration of personal advantage either direct or indirect and not to employ influence of their position as judge to gain undue advantage whether immediate or future.

Published in Dawn, February 24th, 2018