SC judge questions propriety of Justice Shaukat’s speech in court

Published June 1, 2021
In this file photo, Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui addresses the Rawalpindi District Bar Association. — DawnNewsTV/File
In this file photo, Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui addresses the Rawalpindi District Bar Association. — DawnNewsTV/File

ISLAMABAD: Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan on Monday wondered whether it was apt for a superior court judge to address an audience to vent a grievance that reflects upon the judiciary as well as other institutions.

The observation came during the hearing of an appeal moved by Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, a former judge of the Islamabad High Court, against an Oct 11, 2018, notification under which he was removed.

Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui was removed on the recommendation of the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) under Article 209 of the Constitution for displaying a conduct “unbecoming of a judge” by delivering a speech on July 21 the same year at the District Bar Association, Rawalpindi.

In the speech the former judge had accused certain officials of the Inter-Services Intelligence of interfering in the judiciary’s affairs.

Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan observed that the moot point was whether it is appropriate for a judge to make allegations, regardless of their veracity, in a courtroom.

Hamid Khan, who represented the former judge, recalled there were hundreds of occasions in judicial history when judges attended public gatherings and made speeches.

Justice Umar Ata Bandial, who headed the five-judge Supreme Court bench, said if Hamid Khan was referring to former chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, he should remember that after his ‘removal’ by former president retired Gen Pervez Musharraf in 2007, Justice Chaudhry addressed many bar councils and bar associations, but all such addresses were in the form of written speeches about the law and the Constitution. He never spoke about himself in those speeches, Justice Bandial added.

Hamid Khan argued that instead of holding a preliminary inquiry into allegations against Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, the Supreme Judicial Council issued a show cause notice and then recommended his removal, ignoring that Article 209 of the Constitution provided security of tenure to judges.

The counsel stressed that the SJC should have held an inquiry before issuing the show cause notice, adding that judges would become “most vulnerable if such exceptions” were taken.

Hamid Khan expressed an apprehension that since the term “unbecoming of a judge” had a broad connotation, it could be used against any judge under Article 209. “The case at hand is peculiar since it was a court reference in which the show cause notice was issued.”

Recalling a previous reference brought against Justice Siddiqui by Anwar Gopang, still pending before the SJC, Hamid Khan regretted that “they want to bring one reference after another”.

Justice Ahsan reminded the counsel that the SJC’s proceedings were like any other inquiry where regular procedures could be dispensed with in case of a document admitted by both parties in the dispute.

But the counsel pleaded that the parameters provided in the laws should be followed at all costs since these cannot be waived.

At the outset on Monday, the Supreme Court reminded the counsel of the bar contained in Article 211 of the Constitution which lays down that the SJC’s proceedings or its report to the president or the removal of a judge cannot be called into question by any court.

The counsel argued that this bar should not be a reason to delay the present case since the bar was not absolute.

In his original petition, Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui had requested the apex court to make appropriate directions or regulate the discretion available to the chief justices of all superior courts to constitute or dissolve benches and declare that the discretion of the chief justice can only be exercised after consultations with the four most senior judges of the court and only in accordance with certain criteria.

Published in Dawn, June 1st, 2021

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