ISLAMABAD: President Dr Arif Alvi on Thursday removed senior puisne judge of the Islamabad High Court Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui on the recommendations of the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC).
Earlier in the day, the SJC had recommended Justice Siddiqui’s removal for his remarks about alleged interference by the country’s premier spy agency in the judicial proceedings.
Consequently, the Ministry of Law and Justice denotified the IHC judge. “A notification in this regard has been issued,” said Law Minister Dr Farogh Nasim.
The notification signed by the law secretary states: “The President of Pakistan has been pleased to remove Mr Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, Judge Islamabad High Court, from his office with immediate effect.”
The SJC, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar, ruled: “This council is unanimously of the opinion that in the matter of making his speech before the District Bar Association, Rawalpindi, on July 21, 2018, Mr Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, Judge Islamabad High Court, had displayed conduct unbecoming of Judge of a High Court and was, thus, guilty of misconduct and he is, therefore, liable to be removed from his office under Article 209(6) of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973.”
Justice Siddiqui says SJC took up ‘baseless reference’ against him about renovation of his official residence
The Article 209(6) says: “If after inquiring into the matter, the Council reports to the President that it is of the opinion: (a) that the Judge is incapable of performing the duties of his office or has been guilty of misconduct, and (b) that he should be removed from office; the President may remove the judge from office.”
During the 70-year judicial history of the country, Justice Siddiqui has become the second judge against whom the SJC passed negative opinion.
The first reference had been filed against Justice Hasan Ali Agha in the Federal Court of Pakistan in 1951, the second against Justice Ikhlaq Hussain during General Ayub’s regime, the third against Justice Shaikh Shaukat Ali during General Yahya’s era and the fourth against Justice Safdar Ali Shah during General Zia’s regime.
While Justice Agha was exonerated and Justice Ali was asked to resign, the SJC passed negative opinion against Justice Ikhlaq.
Justice Safdar Shah, who was part of the bench that had convicted Pakistan Peoples Party founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto but ruled against the conviction, faced the wrath of Gen Zia’s martial law regime, tendered resignation and left Pakistan.
In 2007, the SJC had taken up a reference filed by former president retired Gen Pervez Musharraf against then chief justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, but a 13-member larger bench of the Supreme Court quashed the reference.
Former chief justice of Pakistan Anwar Zaheer Jamali had in 2015 reactivated the SJC and started proceeding against some judges of the IHC and Lahore High Court. However, the SJC decided the case instituted against Justice Siddiqui after July 21 this year.
The five-member SJC bench which recommended Justice Siddiqui’s removal comprised CJP Saqib Nisar, Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa and Justice Gulzar Ahmed of the Supreme Court, Sindh High Court Chief Justice Ahmed Ali Shaikh and LHC Chief Justice Mohammad Yawar Ali.
The SJC’s report forwarded to the president was authored by Justice Khosa. It states: “At a time when many inquiries under Article 209 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973 were pending against him at different stages before the Supreme Judicial Council, Mr Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, Judge, Islamabad High Court, addressed a meeting of the District Bar Association, Rawalpindi on July 21, 2018. That meeting was attended by a large number of advocates including some office-bearers of the Punjab Bar Council, the High Court Bar Association and the District Bar Association, Rawalpindi.”
The report also highlighted the contents of that speech. According to it, Justice Siddiqui claimed that the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) is “manipulating judicial proceedings as its officials manage to constitute benches at its will and mark cases to selected judges”. He said: “The ISI approached the Chief Justice of the Islamabad High Court and told him that they don’t want release of Nawaz Sharif and his daughter before elections.”
The SJC after a brief hearing on Oct 1 had reserved the order that was announced on Thursday.
Justice Siddiqui’s response
Reacting to the SJC decision, Justice Siddiqui said the council’s opinion was not unexpected for him. He said the SJC had taken up a “baseless reference” against him related to renovation of his official residence, and since there was nothing in that reference, he had been eliminated for delivering a speech at the bar association.
“Contrary to my demand and the decision of the Supreme Court for conducting the trial in open court, the SJC proceeded against me in-camera. Besides, no effort was made to constitute a commission to ascertain veracity of the allegations I made in that speech,” he said, adding that he would present his stance before people and explain what he had already submitted to the SJC in connection with the reference. “I will also explain the real reasons for which SJC has deposed a high court judge in about five decades,” Justice Siddiqui concluded.
Published in Dawn, October 12th, 2018