High courts told not to reprimand judges in public

Updated September 15, 2019

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SC gives verdict on district judge’s appeal against 2014 decision of Peshawar High Court. — APP/File
SC gives verdict on district judge’s appeal against 2014 decision of Peshawar High Court. — APP/File

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has asked high courts not to pass any strictures against district judicial officers or summon them for public reprimand in open court over their findings on a trial as they can apprise their respective chief justice through a confidential administrative note about any grave illegalities, irregularities and improprieties noticed in lower courts decisions.

The high courts should then leave it to the chief justice or their respective administrative committee to take appropriate disciplinary action against the district judge on the confidential report, observed Justice Mansoor Ali Shah in a judgement he wrote.

Justice Shah was part of a three-member SC bench, headed by Justice Manzoor Ahmed Malik and also comprising Justice Qazi Mohammad Amin Ahmed.

Released on Saturday, the decision came on an appeal instituted by Additional District and Sessions Judge, Peshawar, Nusrat Yasmin, who was aggrieved of the strictures recorded against her by the Peshawar High Court (PHC) in its June 26, 2014 judgement.

SC gives verdict on district judge’s appeal against 2014 decision of Peshawar High Court

In her appeal, the district judge had pleaded before the SC to expunge the observations against her from the PHC decision for being uncalled for, harsh and impermissible in law.

The PHC had held that the learned judge (district and sessions judge, Peshawar) had traversed all limits of judicial ethics by passing contemptuous observations against the high court, which on one hand, showed her meagre knowledge about the law, while on the other, her disrespect towards the higher judiciary. Such exercise on the part of a judicial officer amounted to professional misconduct, which being highly deplorable could not be countenanced, the PHC order had held.

In the SC judgement on her appeal, Justice Shah ordered to expunge the strictures recorded against the district judge and directed the PHC that the strictures would not form part of her service record or in any manner influence the competent authority against the appellant judge in her service matters.

The Supreme Court also ordered the assistant registrar of the Supreme Court’s Peshawar registry to ensure that a copy of the judgement was dispatched to the registrars of all high courts, to be circulated among all the judges of the respective high courts for their information.

While it is not in the majesty, character, and dignity of the high court or the justice system to pass judicial strictures and summon judges of the district judiciary in open court, Justice Shah observed, it was eminently within the constitutional domain of the high court and indeed desirable that the high court, where appropriate, exercises supervisory control over the district judiciary through administrative disciplinary mechanisms.

The power to supervise and control the district judiciary was to be exercised by the high court under Articles 202 and 203 of the constitution while exercising its administrative authority, the SC judge said, adding this constitutional responsibility vests in the high court and not in a judge of a high court exercising judicial power.

The power to supervise and control was actualised through High Court Rules and Orders and service laws that govern the judges of the district judiciary.

The SC judgement said the structure of service laws relating to the district judiciary empowered the competent authority (the chief justice or the administrative committee of the high court) to take disciplinary action against the judge.

Published in Dawn, September 15th, 2019