The Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) on Monday rejected three separate applications submitted by Islamabad High Court (IHC) judge Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui seeking records of expenses incurred on the maintenance of official residences of all superior court judges.
Justice Siddiqui is accused of spending more money on the refurbishment of his official residence than he was entitled to. A complaint in this regard had been filed with the SJC — which conducts inquiries against judges on charges of misconduct — by a retired employee of the Capital Development Authority (CDA).
For the first time in the country’s judicial history, the SJC had agreed to an open hearing of a reference against a judge upon Justice Siddiqui's own request. Headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, the five-member council includes the chief justices of the Balochistan and Sindh High Courts.
When the CJP inquired at the start of the hearing what evidence would be brought on record today, Justice Siddiqui's lawyer, Hamid Khan, informed the top judge that his client had submitted applications requesting the council to order the production of documents and information that he could use in his defence.
The information the IHC judge had sought included the total expenditures incurred during the last seven years on the maintenance of each official accommodation of the judges of the Supreme Court, Federal Shariat Court and all the high courts.
The list and particulars of those superior court judges should also be provided who, despite having official accommodation, kept on receiving, or are still receiving, house rent allowance at a rate of Rs65,000 per month, the lawyer quoted one of those applications as saying.
However, Justice Nisar remarked that the bench did not want the proceedings of this reference to drag on, and instead asked the lawyer to focus his arguments against the allegations brought against the IHC judge.
"There is no purpose behind summoning this record," he observed, noting that the applications had not sought the record of a specific judge but of all superior court judges.
He also observed that complying with such a request would expand the scope of the reference brought against Justice Siddiqui beyond reasonable limits.
The lawyer countered that because Siddiqui was accused of spending an excessive amount on the refurbishment of his official residence, his team wanted to compare the amount spent with the expenses incurred on the maintenance of houses of other judges.
When Justice Siddiqui himself intervened and said that he needed the record sought and that he should be treated "equal to others", the CJP directed him to communicate through his lawyer instead of speaking at the rostrum directly. He also chided Justice Siddiqui's lawyer, reminding him that he had guaranteed there would be no theatrics in the court.
Lawyer Hamid Khan responded saying that the council's decision to wrap up his client's requests quickly was giving an impression of injustice.
At this, the CJP remarked that it was the right of every citizen to be given justice, including a judge's. He also reminded the defence that the SJC conducts procedural inquiries against judges and that the scope of those inquiries is limited.
"I want to see the judge sahib leaving from here with a clean chit if there is nothing against him," Justice Nisar said.
"There will no bigger injustice than if a judge himself is not able to get justice."
The council subsequently rejected the three applications submitted by Justice Siddiqui, with the CJP noting that the reference was "not a regular trial, but administrative proceedings" against the judge.
While rejecting the applications, the council stated that it could still issue orders to summon whatever record was required to assist in the proceedings of the reference.
Ali Anwar Gopang, the senior CDA official who originated the reference the judge is facing, also recorded his statement before the council under oath as a witness. The council subsequently adjourned the proceedings till Tuesday (tomorrow), when the witness will be cross-examined.