ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Thursday decided to take up at a later date an appeal by a former Islamabad High Court (IHC) judge against his removal.
A five-judge SC bench headed by Justice Umar Ata Bandial observed that the points raised by former justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui overlap and are similar to the points highlighted by sitting SC Justice Qazi Faez Isa.
A 10-judge full bench is currently seized with a set of petitions instituted by Justice Isa and various bar councils and associations against the filing of a presidential reference against him.
One of the common points raised in both cases is Article 211 of the Constitution, which states that proceedings before the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) hearing a reference against a judge, its report to the president and the removal of the judge in consequence of that report cannot be called into question by any court.
Justice Bandial pointed towards Mr Siddiqui’s senior counsel Rashid A. Razvi and Hamid Khan and said since the petitioner has called into question a report of the council as well as proceedings before the SJC, he has to cross the obstacle of Article 211.
Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui’s appeal seeking his restoration as an IHC judge overlaps with sitting SC Justice Isa’s petitions being heard by full bench, court says
The counsel also suggested that since this question highlighted by the court was also under the consideration of the full court, it would be appropriate that the present matter be taken up after the larger bench decides Justice Isa’s petition.
In its order the court also agreed with this suggestion and postponed further proceedings until the third week of March, in the hopes that the full bench may have decided on the matter by then.
Mr Siddiqui was removed from high judicial office on the recommendation of the SJC under Article 209 of the Constitution for displaying conduct unbecoming of a judge by delivering a speech at the District Bar Association Rawalpindi on July 21, 2018.
In his appeal, he has contended that the matter at hand was of great public importance, since important questions related to the independence of the judiciary, rule of law and the supremacy of the Constitution had been raised, requiring an earlier adjudication of the matter by the court.
He contended that since a number of his legal and constitutional rights were involved in the matter, early fixation of the appeal should be considered.
Mr Siddiqui has also sought to be restored as a permanent judge of the high court after setting aside an Oct 11, 2018, notification removing him.
In a 30-page appeal, the former judge with seven years of judicial experience explained the context in which he was compelled to address the Rawalpindi District Bar Association, in which he made remarks against the alleged involvement of officers of an executive organ of the state in the affairs of the judiciary and to allegedly manipulate the formation of high court benches.
He argued in his appeal that his remarks were an “honest attempt demanded by his conscience to counter the challenges posed to the independence of the judiciary.”
The petition contended that the SJC considered the letter of the high court chief justice to be gospel truth against him despite the fact that it was not an affidavit and that the chief justice was exonerated in all the references he was facing just two days later.
It argued that it was obligatory upon the SJC to look into the allegations levelled by him in the interest of justice in a properly conducted trial to uphold the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary, which is a basic feature of the Constitution.
Published in Dawn, February 14th, 2020