ISLAMABAD: Senior counsel Hamid Khan on Monday claimed that former prime minister Imran Khan still regretted filing a reference against Justice Qazi Faez Isa with the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) over the judge’s alleged failure to disclose properties in London.

“Imran Khan believes he was misled by some party members while he was not inclined to moving a reference against Justice Isa,” Hamid Khan, a disgruntled leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), quoted party chairman Imran Khan as saying while talking to Dawn after his arguments before a five-judge Supreme Court bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial. The former prime minister had to succumb to the inappropriate advice, Hamid Khan said.

The PTI chief had more than once during various interactions conceded that filing the reference against Justice Isa was a mistake.

The bench had taken up an appeal of Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui against an opinion of the SJC as well as the Oct 11, 2018 notification under which he was removed as the superior court judge over his July 21, 2018 speech at the Rawalpindi District Bar Association.

Hamid Khan says Imran still regrets filing reference against Justice Isa

On Monday, Hamid Khan furnished before the Supreme Court written formulations stating that there were overwhelming facts and circumstances in the present case that certain powers were annoyed and antagonistic towards Shaukat Siddiqui as a judge and they were out to get him, whatever it might take.

In his speech, the former judge had made remarks about the alleged involvement of certain state officials, specifically from the country’s premier intelligence agency, in the affairs of the judiciary to manipulate the formation of benches of the high court.

The SJC had in its recommendations held that by making the speech, Justice Siddiqui had not only violated the code of conduct, but also displayed a conduct unbecoming of a judge and thus violated the traditional requirements of the behaviour expected of a superior court judge.

Hamid Khan, who held a 90-minute meeting with Imran Khan at the latter’s Banigala residence on Sunday, recalled he had asked the former premier not to file the reference, and even if it was moved, he should consider withdrawing it without wasting any time. But Imran preferred to wait for the outcome of the reference, which was eventually quashed by the Supreme Court, he said, and later regretted he should have heeded to the suggestion.

When asked if he was still a part of the PTI, the counsel, who had earlier distanced himself from party affairs, claimed he was still the PTI vice chairman. He further said that during their meeting Imran Khan also mentioned other disgruntled members of the party, such as Jahangir Khan Tareen and Aleem Khan, who the party chief said had misused the PTI for their own benefits, and the scandals they were linked to had brought a bad name to the party.

During the hearing, the CJP observed that the court was keen to conclude the proceedings since two members of the bench would be retiring over the next two months. When the counsel argued that he needed time, CJP Bandial said the court was available 24/7 and he was personally present in the court until 9pm.

The statement regretted that Justice Siddiqui was allegedly hounded, witch-hunted, victimised and involved in false and sham references because he was too independent for their taste.

“His victimisation was a clear attempt on the part of certain elements in the executive to subdue independent judges and subject them to inducement and threat to obtain results of their own choice and desire,” the counsel stated, adding that such a situation also came to the fore when two references were filed on Dec 24, 2017, over the judge’s observations in relation to the Faizabad dharna in the cases fixed before him for hearing.

He said when these powers could not stand such observations, how could they withstand such a candid speech wherein certain persons were actually referred to, adding that the entire SJC proceedings against Mr Siddiqui were tainted with mala fide. Despite Article 211 of the Constitution stipulating that SJC proceedings, its report to the president and the removal of a judge could not be called into question in any court, Article 184(3) provided jurisdiction to the apex court.

Thus, the petition under Article 184(3) is maintainable, Hamid Khan argued, adding that it was the only remedy available to the judge who has been proceeded against under Article 209 or against whom an adverse report had been submitted before the president.

The counsel argued that the SJC report was not binding on the president since he had the discretion to remove a judge or not under Article 209(7), but everything was done in haste in a matter of a few hours on Oct 11, 2018, and obviously without application of mind.

Published in Dawn, June 14th, 2022

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