ISLAMABAD: After a prolonged session, the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) on Monday adjourned until Tuesday its proceedings to consider complaints against a sitting judge of the Supreme Court — Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi.

Senior counsel Khawaja Haris Ahmed represented Justice Naqvi and advanced preliminary arguments before the council which will continue again on Tuesday. Dur­ing the proceedings, the officers of the Lahore Cantonment Board were also present.

The SJC rejected a complaint against Justice Sardar Tariq Masood, himself an SJC member. During the last hearing on Oct 27, complainant Amna Malik was directed to produce material in support of her complaint.

Headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa, the SJC comprised Justice Masood, Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Lahore High Court Chief Justice Muham­mad Ameer Bhatti, and Balochistan High Court CJ Naeem Akhtar Afghan. On Monday, the SJC recorded the statement of Amna Malik, who was also questioned and the complaint was also exhibited.

Forum dismisses gripe against Justice Masood after complainant backs down

The SJC had issued a notice to Justice Masood with a direction to remain in attendance if he wanted to rebut the allegations against him. The complainant was questioned but gave unsatisfactory answers, rather withheld information. The complainant conceded that her complaint was not justified in light of the documents seen by her.

Justice Masood was of the view that since he had been publicly defamed and as the complainant herself conceded that it was factually incorrect, he requested that action be taken against her and against Advocate M Azhar Siddi­que, who had tweeted her complaint.

Justice Masood had also requested that since he was publicly defamed, he should be publicly exonerated too, and that the order passed on Mon­day as well as the examination of the complainant and answ­ers to questions be disclosed.

Since the complainant herself stated that her complaint should not have been filed as the allegations were not correct, the SJC held that there was no substance to the complaint. Consequently, the SJC opined that the complaint was filed maliciously to defame Justice Masood. However, the SJC decided the decision on proceedings against the complainant for filing a false complaint would be taken later.

About the request of Justice Masood, SJC stated that Clause 13 of the Supreme Judicial Council Procedure of Enquiry 2005 stipulated that the proceedings of the council should be conducted in-camera and should not be open to the public.

However, Clause 13(3) of the procedure also states that the proceedings, if so directed by the council, could be reported. Accordingly, considering the request of Justice Masood, who wants public exoneration, the stated proceedings should be reported by the secretary of the council and uploaded on the Supreme Court’s website, it said.

In view of the fact that the complaint was stated to be tweeted by M Azhar Siddique, the SJC issued notice to the lawyer to explain within a week whether he tweeted the complaint and if in affirmative, why should action under the law not be taken against him, the order said.

‘Without lawful authority’

Meanwhile, Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi on Monday challenged the Oct 28 show-cause notice issued to him by the SJC, stating the initiation of proceedings was coram non judice and without lawful authority.

Moved through a panel of heavyweight lawyers namely Makhdoom Ali Khan, Khawaja Haris Ahmed, Sardar Latif Khosa and Barrister Syed Ali Zafar, the petition contended that the judge had been facing a malicious campaign since Feb 16, 2023, as false and baseless allegations have been openly and publicly levelled against him.

A media trial has been conducted and “the malicious campaign and the complaints were a direct and blatant attack on the independence of the judiciary”.

The petition argued whether the participation of Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa, senior puisne judge Justice Sardar Tariq Masood, and BHC CJ Naeem Akhtar Afghan in the proceedings of SJC resulting in the notice issued to the petitioner make all orders passed in such proceedings as without lawful authority and of no legal effect.

It is evident from the record that the manner in which the proceedings have been initiated and the SJC issued SCN on Oct 28 was repugnant to and inconsistent with the fundamental rights guaranteed to him by the Constitution.

The notice is also in direct conflict with the Supreme Court judgements. The release of a press statement by the SJC without his consent not only violates his fundamental rights but also subjects him to a media trial, he added.

Published in Dawn, November 21st, 2023

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