Supreme Judicial Council issues show-cause notice to SC judge Mazahar Ali Naqvi

Published October 27, 2023
A meeting of the SJC on Friday. — Photo released by SJC
A meeting of the SJC on Friday. — Photo released by SJC

The Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) on Friday issued a show-cause notice to Supreme Court Justice Mazahar Ali Naqvi in connection with 10 complaints lodged against him and directed the judge to submit a reply within two weeks.

According to a press release issued today by the apex court, the SJC, comprising Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa, Justice Sardar Tariq Masood, Justice Ijaz Ul Ahsan, Lahore High Court Chief Justice Muhammad Ameer Bhatti and Balochistan High Court Chief Justice Naeem Akhtar, met today to consider 29 complaints submitted to the council.

Among the total complaints, nineteen were rejected, and for the others, it was decided to inform the judges targeted by these complaints and the legal heirs of those who have passed away. “The council noted that frivolous complaints were filed by some lawyers who the council decided to caution,” the press release added.

“Ten complaints were filed against Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi. The council, by majority of three to two, decided to issue him show-cause notices, together with copies of the complaints, and to seek his reply within 14 days of the receipt thereof, whereas the members in minority stated that they needed more time to consider the complaints against him,” the press release reads.

In May, Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) had directed authorities to submit the details of Justice Naqvi’s assets. The PAC, which oversees public spending, was tasked with the case of Justice Naqvi — who is facing allegations of keeping assets beyond means.

At the time, four references were pending against Justice Naqvi before the SJC that accused him of “misconduct”, “misuse of authority” and keeping the assets beyond known sources of income.

One of the complaints also mentioned a number of audio clips, including the one featuring a conversation allegedly between the judge and former Punjab chief minister Chaudhry Parvez Elahi.

In March, the PML-N had filed a reference against the judge after his name surfaced in connection with an alleged audio leak. The reference, filed under Article 209 of the Constitution, had stated that the oath of a superior court judge as prescribed by the Constitution required strict adherence to a code of conduct, any departure from which “may invite misconduct proceeding.”

The reference had alleged that Jus­tice Naqvi had “deviated from this code” when he refu­s­ed bail to an accused but granted one when the acc­used changed his lawyer.

In 2012, Justice Naqvi — who was then a judge in the Lahore High Court — denied bail to Nazir Ahmad who was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder. Later, the accused changed his lawyer and filed a fresh petition which was entertained by the judge and he was released on bail.

The case reached the Supreme Court and in January 2014, the court took strong exception to the judge’s conduct and described it as “colourable exercise of jurisdiction”. Later, a reference was initiated in the SJC against Justice Naqvi on misconduct charges.

The PML-N’s reference said if a judge is habitual in defiance, they must be proceeded against, not least to ensure that other judges do not emulate them.

“Recently, it has transpired from certain audio leaks which are now viral on social media that the aforesaid [h]onorable judge appears to be passing order pursuant to being approached by the interesting parties which in itself is a gross violation of his code of conduct.”

The reference said Justice Naqvi “misused authority as a judge of apex court in the most obvious of manners.”

The complainant had requested the SJC to initiate proceedings against Justice Naqvi.

Earlier on February 23, a lawyer Mian Dawood had filed a reference against the judge.

Status of other complaints

According to the SJC press release, one of the complaints was filed against a judge of the Supreme Court who is a member of the council. Accordingly, the council was reconstituted by requesting Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, the next judge in seniority in the top court, to take his seat on the council on the recusal of Justice Ahsan.

This complaint was dismissed.

The press release added that another complaint was lodged by Amna Malik against Justice Masood. She requested the council to review her complaint since she had made it public, as stated in the statement. Consequently, to address this, the council was reconstituted, and Justice Shah was asked to take Justice Masood’s place in the Council.

The statement further explained that the council “considered the complaint” but noted that the necessary supporting material was not provided. Consequently, the council instructed Amna Malik to furnish the required material to substantiate her complaint. Once received, the secretary will then share this material with Justice Masood for his response.

The statement also revealed that Malik has been summoned to appear in the upcoming council meeting, during which Justice Masood will also be present to present his perspective.

The statement further conveyed that considering the distinct constitutional status of the council, a deliberation arose about establishing a dedicated secretariat with a full-time secretary and necessary staff. It was ultimately decided that the registrar of the Supreme Court, currently serving as the council’s secretary, would prepare a working paper on this matter.

The paper would be submitted to the chief justice of Pakistan, who may make revisions or propose an alternative, and subsequently, it would be circulated for the consideration of other council members.

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