ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) — the mother regulatory body of lawyers — on Friday requested the apex court to direct the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) secretary to explain why the presidential reference against Justice Qazi Faez Isa had been taken up out of turn.
The PBC, which had earlier filed a petition before the Supreme Court challenging the filing of the presidential reference against the senior sitting SC judge, moved a fresh application with the request that the full court bench may direct the SJC secretary to provide at least some basic information regarding dates of filing of all references, the dates of their taking up for hearing and the findings in each reference.
None of these details were protected for confidentiality in SJC procedure, the application argues.
Fresh application filed before full court bench
The full court SC bench comprising 10 judges is hearing arguments of senior counsel Muneer A. Malik for petitioner judge Faez Isa who is seeking to convince the bench that the reference had been filed with mala fide intent and that it should be declared illegal.
The two-page fresh application moved under the Supreme Court Rules 1980 pleaded before the SC that the PBC in its petition had raised fundamental questions with regard to the SJC functioning regarding taking up the references out of turn, not publishing findings of all the references disposed of and the sitting of its members on the council against whom references allegedly may have been pending, which thus violates several provisions of the Constitution and the law.
The request for complete information about outcome of other references had germinated previously from the demands of PBC and Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) representatives, and through a public announcement by the SJC.
On June 15 when proceedings by the SJC in presidential references against Justice Faez Isa and Justice K.K. Agha of the Sindh High Court was accepted, it was explained that the SJC had received 426 complaints or references and all of them were processed.
It was said 398 cases were disposed of and 28 other cases, including the two presidential references, were pending before the SJC. “All such cases are in process and will be disposed of in due course of time,” the SJC announcement added.
Last month while speaking at the opening ceremony of the new judicial year 2019-20, Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa had observed some progress had been made in the three complaints received by the council after the filing of the presidential references. The chief justice referring to the proceedings pending before the SJC had recalled that the decision to disclose any information about the matter to the public lies with the SJC and not with a party or the public at large since this approach was also based upon sound public policy.
In all, 56 private complaints or ‘information’ were pending before the SJC at the start of the last judicial year in September 2018. During the last judicial year, 102 more complaints or information were filed before the council. The chief justice said 149 of such complaints/information were duly processed and disposed of by the council during the last judicial year and at present nine complaints/references were pending before the council, including two references, filed by the president.
In its fresh application, the PBC expressed the hope that a detailed reply would be filed before the apex court with the relevant data and record “on behalf of the SCJ”.
At the least, the application said, it was expected that dates of filing of all references, the dates of their taking up for hearing and the findings in each reference would be provided as none of these details were protected for confidentiality.
The details were most relevant for the hearing and decision on the petitions before the SC, the PBC said.
In the light of the foregoing reasons, the application requested the SC to direct the SJC secretary to file the required record and details in order to decide the questions brought before it through the titled petitions.
In addition to the PBC, a petition by senior jurist Abid Hasan Minto and rights activist I.A. Rehman is also pending before the full court in which a plea has been raised that taking the presidential references out of turn was an arbitrary and mala fide exercise of power by the SJC secretary.
“Neither the constitution nor the procedure regarding SJC hearing state any preference or priority for a matter referred by the president as opposed to information received from other sources,” the petition argued.
Published in Dawn, October 19th, 2019