ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Judicial Council (SJC), hearing a complaint against sitting judge of the Lahore High Court Justice Mohammad Farrukh Irfan Khan, on Monday turned down a request of former chief justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry to constitute a commission for recording his evidence.

“We will not give our powers to the commission,” Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar observed while heading the five-judge SJC.

Justice Khan, who was present in the courtroom No 2 of the Supreme Court, is facing a reference as his name surfaced on the list of those having offshore properties abroad. He was also accused of indulging in money laundering and was issued a show-cause notice by the SJC in February 2017.

The chief justice also recalled that the voluntary affidavit earlier filed by Justice Chaudhry in favour of Justice Khan had no evidentiary value unless he was cross-examined.

Additional Attorney General Aamir Rehman, who was acting as prosecutor, argued that it was a prerogative of the council to appoint the commission or not.

Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry has sought constitution of commission for recording his evidence

In its order, the SJC recalled that Justice Chaudhry had voluntarily filed his affidavit but he was not forthcoming for cross-examination.

Justice Chaudhry has requested the council to appoint the commission through senior counsel Hamid Khan.

“We decline the request as we do not find it expedient to appoint the commission,” the chief justice observed, adding that the affidavit would only be treated if the former CJP came forward for cross-examination.

In his affidavit, Justice Chaudhry has defended Justice Khan by saying that he did not receive any complaint against him from any person, bar, judge or the LHC chief justice during his tenure as the chief justice of Pakistan, and that the sitting judge was not short-tempered or disrespectful to lawyers, litigants or government officials.

On the contrary, the former CJP said, during his tenure as judge of the high court, Justice Khan conducted himself with the highest dignity and his elevation and working as a judge added to the respect and decorum of the institution.

Justice Khan, he said, had a good reputation among his fellow judges, lawyers and litigants as an upright, honest, hard-working and dedicated judge.

During Monday’s hearing, the SJC also rejected a representation signed by a number of members of the Punjab Bar Council in favour of Justice Khan. It was submitted by Rana Asadullah Khan, representing the PBC.

The chief justice observed that such representation was not relevant to the instant case even if the judge in question might be a very good friend or very good judge.

The SJC rejected the plea with an observation that the bar had no locus standi and no relevance to the statement of allegations against the judge.

Hamid Khan told the judges that the four defence witnesses, who had to depose before the council, were still abroad. The witnesses are: Chaudhry Sanjeeb Kumar Patel from the UAE, Nisar Bhatti, Syed Mubashir Ali and Iseebur Rehman from Britain. He said visas had been arranged but had not yet been delivered, adding that the daughter of one of the witnesses was seriously ill and, therefore, he could not come.

At this, the chief justice asked the counsel why didn’t he state in clear terms how much time he needed and said that even after his retirement this institution would be there.

Hamid Khan requested the SJC to postpone the proceedings for two weeks, but when the chief justice asked chief justice-designate Asif Saeed Khosa, the latter suggested not giving an exact date for the next hearing.

At the outset of the proceedings, Advocate Iqbal Jaffer, representing complainant Nazar Mohammad Chohan, informed the SJC that his client was in the United States, but wanted to attend the hearing and testify before the council.

The chief justice observed that the complainant’s evidence was only documentary and he should have come before the council to testify. The counsel said he had no objection if the complainant was allowed to come.

Published in Dawn, January 15th, 2019