The Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) can hear a case against a judge in an open court — given that the judge on trial waives his/her right for in-camera proceedings, a five-member larger bench of the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday.
The bench, while hearing petitions filed by Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui of the Islamabad High Court and Justice Farrukh Irfan of the Lahore High Court, said that the SJC, for other reasons, may still decide to hold proceedings in-camera even if the accused waives the right.
It asked the council to hear the requests by the petitioners again and decide on them in light of the new observations.
The decision, read out by Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, noted that the SJC is a "unique forum created by the Constitution" as it is not a court, rather a domestic disciplinary tribunal "whose proceedings are administrative in nature and recommendatory in effect".
Earlier, in a hearing of the case, the petitioners' counsels had argued that an in-camera trial stigmatises the reputation of judges.
"Even though a judge is exonerated by the council but the proceeding was not open, it will create an impression among the minds of the people that the judge has been absolved of charges in consideration of some deal," senior counsel Muneer A. Malik had argued.