ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has reserved its ruling on a plea seeking judges’ accountability by the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) before their retirements.

The petition to structure the discretion of the SJC — the body responsible for the accountability of superior courts’ judges — was filed by a number of civil society members.

A two-judge bench comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Munib Akhtar heard the case on Tuesday. Senior counsel Hina Jillani argued that a judge accused of misconduct was a burden on the exchequer if they reached superannuation despite a complaint against them pending in the SJC.

Advocate Jilani was representing civil society activists, including Afiya Shehrbano Zia, Afrasiab Khattak, M. Ziauddin, Farhatullah Babar, Nighat Said Khan, Farida Shaheed, Rubina Saigol and Bushra Gauhar, who petitioned in the court. The plea was filed after former chief justice Saqib Nisar retired while a complaint against him was pending before the SJC.

Petitioners want SJC to decide misconduct complaints ahead of superannuation

In 2018, 98 citizens including the petitioners had filed a reference against the then-chief justice under Article 209 of the Constitution over alleged breach of the judge’s Code of Conduct.

However, the judge retired in Jan 2019, with the outcome of their complaint unknown.

Subsequently, through a letter in May 2019, the petitioners asked about the fate of their reference from the SC registrar.

The registrar’s office responded that the reference was declared infructuous by the SJC through a decision on March 8, 2019. The reply also stated that under the SJC rules the proceedings were in-camera and not open to the public.

In a follow-up letter, the petitioners stated that it was unfair and against public interest if the former CJP continued to enjoy handsome privileges keeping in mind that if convicted of misconduct, he would have lost the entitlement to such benefits drawn at the expense of the public exchequer.

Published in Dawn, June 14th, 2023

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