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The fall of a high court judge

Updated October 12, 2018

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Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui.
Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui.

The following is a timeline of the immediate circumstances surrounding the removal of senior puisne judge of the Islamabad High Court, Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui.

Siddiqui was dismissed from his post on October 11, 2018 by President Arif Alvi after his own peers in the judiciary found him guilty of violating the norms of conduct and behaviour expected of a senior judge.

The impeached judge had invited trouble after delivering a fiery speech that was televised and broadcast across the nation. During the speech, he targeted state institutions for interfering with the judiciary and accused the senior judiciary of having been compromised.

His startling allegations came without any substantial proof. When he was questioned by the Supreme Judicial Council on this, he simply stated that his word as a judge of a high court should be considered sufficient proof.

July 21, 2018: Justice Siddiqui's controversial speech

Justice Siddiqui addresses a Rawalpindi District Bar Association meeting.

In his speech, he alleges that personnel of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) are manipulating judicial proceedings.

He also claims that the spy agency had previously approached IHC Chief Justice Muhammad Anwar Khan Kasi and said: "We do not want to let Nawaz Sharif and his daughter come out [of the prison] until the [July 25] elections. Do not include Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui on the bench [hearing Sharifs' appeals]'."

He also rails against the judiciary, alleging that it has been compromised at the hands of the state's security apparatus.

Justice Siddiqui offers no evidence to support the claims he makes.

July 22, 2018: Justice Siddiqui asks CJP for commission to probe allegations

Justice Siddiqui writes to the Chairman of the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC), Justice Saqib Nisar, asking for the constitution of a commission "to probe the authenticity and truthfulness of presented facts".

July 23, 2018: CJP permits Kasi to ask Siddiqui to substantiate his claims

The SJC secretary (also the Supreme Court registrar) submits the following note to the SJC chairman:

After reading the note, the CJP on the same day issues an order asking the Chief Justice of the Islamabad High Court to comment on the veracity of the allegations levelled against him.

He also allows Justice Kasi to obtain material or evidence (if any is available) from Justice Siddiqui to substantiate the claims the latter made in his speech.

Such materials, he says, will be transmitted to the concerned office for appropriate action and consideration, the chief justice promises.

He also observes that the allegation levelled by Justice Siddiqui "cast aspersions and maligns the superior judiciary of the country and berate its independence. It also implicates some other national institutions."

July 29, 2018: The IHC chief justice denies Justice Siddiqui's allegations

Justice Kasi writes to the SJC chairman saying that he wrote to Justice Siddiqui on July 24 asking for provision of material/evidence available with him "but no reply has so far been received, hence my response is being submitted hereunder."

Kasi categorically denies the allegations levelled against him by Justice Siddiqui.

"No member of the agency/ISI had ever approached me or exerted any pressure for extending assurance for keeping the ex-premier behind bars till July 25, election day."

He also categorically denies that the ISI had approached or influenced him to constitute any bench to hear Nawaz Sharif's appeal, as alleged by Justice Siddiqui in his speech.

"The allegation of manipulation of judicial proceedings by members of the Agency is baseless, false and concocted. During my entire career as IHC CJ, no such attempt was ever made."

He adds that constitution of benches is the prerogative of the Islamabad High Court chief justice, "and they are constituted in routine".

"I have performed my duties independently without any favour, fear or undue pressure throughout my tenure in accordance with Oath by following the Code of Conduct," Justice Kasi declares.

July 30, 2018: SJC opens reference to inquire into allegations

The SJC secretary submits a note to the SJC chairman saying that Justice Kasi's response to Justice Siddiqui's speech has been received.

He also recounts the following allegations made by Justice Siddiqui:

  • That the ISI is fully involved in the manipulation of judicial proceedings, including the marking of cases to honorable benches.
  • That ISI personnel approached the IHC chief justice and asked him not to let Nawaz Sharif and his daughter out of prison before the General Elections. They also asked for the exclusion of Justice Siddiqui from the review bench which was to hear the Sharif family's appeals. Justice Siddiqui further alleged that the IHC chief justice had responded positively to the ISI's inducement and said that the bench will be constituted as per their desire.
  • That Justice Siddiqui claims to have knowledge of a person who "conveys messages" to the SC.
  • That an accountability court's proceedings were being "reported somewhere" on a daily basis.
  • That Justice Siddiqui "knows the reason why" the administrative control of the IHC over the accountability court was removed "so that no judge could look into the proceedings".
  • That Justice Siddiqui claims he was asked to give assurances to agency personnel that he would give decisions as per their request, and then all SJC references pending against him would be closed.
  • That Justice Siddiqui alleges that if he decided cases according to their (agency personnel's) desire, he would be made the chief justice of the IHC by September.

The SJC secretary highlights the fact that Justice Siddiqui has still not provided any evidence or material to support his claims.

Justice Nisar subsequently passes an order calling for the opinion of Justice Asif Saeed Khosa "in terms of Clause 7(1)(A) of the SJC Procedure of Enquiry 2005" whether a reference should be opened against Justice Siddiqui or not.

Justice Khosa records the following opinion:

"The speech made by the Honourable Judge ostensibly offends against Articles II, III, V, and IX of the Code of Conduct. I am, therefore, of the opinion that the matter requires an inquiry by the SJC."

Subsequently, the matter is fixed before the SJC for July 31, 2018 at 2pm.

July 31, 2018: SJC issues show-cause notice to Justice Siddiqui

The SJC convenes and decides to issue a show-cause notice to Justice Siddiqui, asking him to explain his conduct at the Rawalpindi Bar Association speech within 14 days.

The matter is fixed for Aug 28, 2018 for Justice Siddiqui's consideration.

August 2, 2018: Justice Siddiqui's request for an investigation into his claims is placed on the SJC record

The SJC chairman asks for Justice Siddiqui's July 22 letter — in which he had called for an inquiry into the claims he had made — to be placed on the SJC's record.

August 15, 2018: Justice Siddiqui responds to SJC's show-cause notice

Justice Siddiqui submits a preliminary reply to the show-cause notice.

He says the responsibility for establishing the allegations levelled by him rests with the SJC.

He also says that the allegations against himself are vague and that the SJC has a "strong bias" against him.

He claims that he has spoken out "against some wrongs in the working and processes of the judiciary", and has "highlighted improper influence of elements within the armed forces over state institutions and judicial process".

He adds that he "knew" he would be "silenced and victimised" for speaking up, and that "there were plans afoot to remove him from the judiciary".

He claims that the proceedings against him are an attempt to quell his right to free speech as guaranteed under the Constitution.

August 21, 2018: Justice Siddiqui submits additional response to SJC's show-cause notice

An additional reply to his earlier statement repeats some stances taken by Justice Siddiqui in his preliminary response.

Some instances of interactions between Justice Siddiqui and the chief justice of the IHC are referred to.

Moreover, some references are made to meetings and dialogues that allegedly took place between some named officers of the Pakistan Army and Justice Siddiqui at his residence over the course of various dates.

Some specific cases are also mentioned in which Justice Siddiqui was allegedly "approached by some officers of the Pakistan Army and attempts were made to influence the outcome of those cases". These are the Axact and Bol cases, as well as the Faizabad dharna case.

As a defence of Justice Siddiqui's claim that the judiciary has been compromised, his new reply also includes a reference to interviews of a former chief justice of Pakistan, a former president of Pakistan, and a former chief of the army staff "to show that extraneous influences are sometimes brought to bear upon the judiciary of this country".

It is also argued that a "pre-meditated inquiry has been initiated against me, the result of which unfortunately will be that the truth will not come out but rather will be buried and the public and the institutions will remain in the dark".

As a final defence, Justice Siddiqui states that he is a "sworn Justice of the Honourable High Court of Islamabad", and his statement ought to be taken as "sufficient proof of the allegations".

September 14, 2018: SJC meets and passes order to pursue the matter further

The Attorney General of Pakistan is instructed to take over the proceedings and Justice Siddiqui, along with his counsel, are asked to appear at the next hearing of the case, scheduled for October 1, 2018.

October 1, 2018: SJC convenes again to hear the attorney general's arguments

The attorney general submits before the court that the stand taken by Justice Siddiqui — who is present in person along with his counsel — is factually incorrect.

The attorney general observes that in Justice Siddiqui's replies to the show cause notice served to him, his standpoint that he had "not targeted the judiciary of Pakistan but had only highlighted the interference made and the pressures exerted by the Pakistani Army in general and ISI in particular in the working of the judiciary at all levels and tiers" is contrary to facts.

Some excerpts of Justice Siddiqui's speech are read out and it is pointed out by the attorney general that it is in fact the judiciary as a whole — both past and present — which is the prime target of Justice Siddiqui's invective.

It is also argued that recordings of the response of the audience listening to the speech show that the speech is "nothing but incitement to hatred" against the judiciary.

The attorney general refers to Article 209 of the Constitution, the Code of Conduct for judges issued by the SJC, and the SJC Procedure of Enquiry 2005.

He points out that as the Constitution does not define the word 'misconduct', that meaning is left for the SJC to determine. He, however, also points out that in the preamble to the Code of Conduct issued by the SJC "an attempt is made to indicate certain traditional requirements of behaviour in the judges of the superior courts" and that the code itself "imposes patterns of behaviour, which are the hallmark of distinction of a judge among his fellow men".

The attorney general concludes that "through the speech made by Justice Siddiqui, a judge of a high court, had publicly questioned the independence and integrity of the chief justice of his own court, the Supreme Court of Pakistan, the Judicial Commission of Pakistan, and the Supreme Judicial Council...and had thus demonstrated conduct unbecoming of a Judge".

The hearing is adjourned to October 8, 2018.

October 8, 2018: SJC meets to deliberate the matter from various angles

During this hearing, the ToRs of the reference against Justice Siddiqui are laid out.

It is noted that Article 209(5) authorises the SJC to inquire into the conduct of a Supreme Court judge or a high court judge upon approval from the president, or on the basis of information received from any source, or on the council's own motion. It is also noted that the SJC Procedure of Enquiry 2005 outlines the process to carry out such an inquiry.

The council also notes for the record that by this stage of inquiry, initial investigations were carried out, a show cause notice was served, replies were received and the attorney general has presented his arguments.

The council now has the discretion to adopt any procedure suitable to the requirements of the inquiry.

The council forms the opinion that the issue before it is not whether the allegations levelled by Justice Siddiqui are correct, but whether a senior serving judge ought to have levelled such allegations at a public forum in the first place.

Particular note is taken of the fact that the speech was covered by television channels and news media and disseminated far and wide.

It is determined that the council will look into the propriety of Justice Siddiqui's conduct in making such a public speech.

The council decides that the issue of why Justice Siddiqui made the speech or what his intentions were in doing so do not fall into the scope of the inquiry being conducted by the SJC.

Upon a detailed consideration of the matter at hand, the council forms an opinion. However, before expressing it, it delineates the reasons for the opinion, which are mentioned as under:

  • Justice Siddiqui denounced the judiciary of this country as a whole for being under siege and institutional capture.
  • He targeted and insulted some former chief justices of Pakistan by name
  • He failed to divulge any specific personal experience regarding attempts to influence him
  • He failed to substantiate the ISI's involvement in the manipulation of judicial proceedings
  • He levelled unsubstantiated allegations against the chief justice of the Islamabad High Court
  • He levelled unsubstantiated allegations against the Supreme Court of Pakistan
  • He levelled the unsubstantiated allegation that the proceedings of the Accountability Court-I are "controlled" in some manner
  • He alleged that the removal of administrative control of the IHC over the Accountability Court was done in bad faith
  • He cast doubt on the independence of the SJC and the motives attributed to it
  • He made the unsubstantiated claim he was provided assurance by an ISI official he would be made chief justice of the IHC if he decided in a particular case based on the wishes of the ISI
  • He made allegations that the media had succumbed to pressure without substantiating his claim

The council observes that "it is clear that except for a few specific instances where he had met some officials at his residence, all other allegations levelled by Justice Siddiqui were couched in generalised and unspecific terms and were based essentially upon his subjective and personal views."

October 11, 2018: The SJC presents its opinion in the case

The SJC presents the following opinion, finding Justice Siddiqui guilty of misconduct and liable to be removed from his office under Article 209(6) of the Constitution.

The report is sent to the president for his approval.

October 11, 2018: Justice Shaukat Siddiqui is removed as Islamabad High Court judge

President Arif Alvi removes Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui as a judge of the Islamabad High Court (IHC). A notification is issued by the law ministry.

Siddiqui claims he is "not surprised" by the decision.