The Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) on Thursday issued a notice to the federal government through the attorney general regarding references filed in the SJC against Justices Qazi Faez Isa and Karim Khan Agha.
The SJC — the only constitutional forum that can examine the conduct of superior court judges and recommend their removal — will hold a hearing of the two references on June 14.
According to media reports, the references accuse the two judges of concealing their assets and recommend action against them under Article 209 of the Constitution.
On Wednesday, against the backdrop of reports regarding institution of references against superior court judges, Justice Isa had approached President Dr Arif Alvi, complaining that selective leaks to the media amount to his character assassination, thus jeopardising his right to due process and fair trial.
An informed source had told Dawn that in his letter to the president, the SC judge had also said he would be obliged if the former could let him know if it was correct that a reference had been filed against him.
“I am confident that you (president) will agree that if a reference has been filed and I have been called upon to submit my reply thereto, only then, subject to the permission of the Supreme Judicial Council, the government may disclose the reference and my response thereto,” Justice Isa stated in the letter.
Legal observers believe that the current campaign against Justice Isa was launched after he authored a strongly worded judgement on February 6 in a case relating to the November 2017 Faizabad sit-in by the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), directing the defence ministry and chiefs of the army, navy and air force to penalise the personnel under their command found to have violated their oath.
Justice Isa, who is in line to become the chief justice of Pakistan, also requested the president to provide him a copy of the reference if one was filed against him. “Selective leaks amount to character assassination, jeopardise my right to due process and fair trial and undermine the institution of the judiciary,” he stated.
Also on Wednesday, additional attorney general Zahid F. Ebrahim, a son of former chief election commissioner Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim, resigned from his office in protest over what he called an attempt to tarnish the reputation of independent individuals and browbeat the judiciary.
SHCBA condemns reference
Meanwhile, the Sindh High Court Bar Association (SHCBA) on Thursday strongly condemned the reference sent to the SJC against Justice Isa.
The condemnation came in a resolution unanimously adopted by the association members during a general body meeting convened in the backdrop of the filing of references against the judges of superior courts. The meeting was presided over by SHCBA president Advocate Muhammad Aqil.
According to the resolution, the bar association "unanimously condemns the reference sent by the President of Pakistan to the Supreme Judicial Council against Mr Justice Qazi Faez Isa”.
It described Justice Isa as "one of the most honest and upright judge[s] of the Supreme Court of Pakistan with unimpeachable integrity and impeccable legal pedigree" and the reference against him as the "counterblast of Quetta carnage commission report and judgment of Faizabad dharna".
The SHCBA also appreciated the move by Zahid F. Ebrahim to resign from the office of additional attorney general in protest against the filing of references against the judges.
“This association further unanimously resolved that this reference is malicious and is aimed at undermining the independence of judiciary and the rule of law,” the resolution stated.
Rejecting what it called "pressure tactics" against senior judges, the SHCBA demanded the "immediate withdrawal of this frivolous and malevolent reference".
With additional reporting by Naeem Sahoutara in Karachi.