References filed against 2 superior court judges in Supreme Judicial Counci

ISLAMABAD: References were filed against two judges of the superior judiciary after complaints were received of them owning properties abroad. Complaints were received against three judges, of which two were verified and sent to the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) by the president and prime minister.

The Assets Recovery Unit (ARU) said it has been informed of the existence of foreign properties owned by three judges of Pakistan. It issued a joint notification with the Ministry of Law and Justice (MoJ).

The notification, which comes as the latest development pertaining to reports of the federal government’s decision to file references against certain judges, further said the ministry had authority in this regard in accordance with the Rules of Business (1973) pertaining to the judges.

It said the matter was referred to the MoJ for relevant action with regard to a petition about certain judges owning properties outside of Pakistan.

The MoJ, consequently, had advised the Assets Recovery Unit to initiate action, the notification stated, adding that it was told to verify the matter highlighted in the petition.

The ARU, therefore, worked in collaboration with the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), and the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to gather information.

It should be noted that action can only be initiated based on verified information, the notification stressed.

The prime minister’s ARU has obtained verified registries of the judges’ properties. These registries have been notarised and verified by the Pakistani High Commission in the United Kingdom, it added.

In this context and information, the matter will now be presented to the SJC. If the president and the prime minister had not taken steps in accordance with Article 209, they would have been neglecting their duties.

The president, prime minister, MoJ, and the ARU have strongly believe in the law, the Constitution of Pakistan, and the judiciary’s freedom, it reiterated.

The SJC is the only constitutional authority mandated by Article 209 of the Constitution to conduct inquiries into allegations of incapacity or misconduct against a judge of the Supreme Court or of a high court.

The SJC comprises the chief justice of Pakistan as the chairperson, two senior-most judges of the Supreme Court, and two senior-most judges of the high courts as members.

According to official, complaints of three judges owing properties were received. The judges including one each from the Supreme Court, Lahore High Court and Sindh High Court. The name of former Lahore High Court Judge Farrukh Irfan was dropped as he had resigned during proceedings of the SJC.

Justice Faez Isa’s letter to President Alvi

It is also noteworthy to mention here that the government had earlier filed references with the SJC against two high court judges and one of the Supreme Court of Pakistan for owning properties abroad.

According to reports, the three judges owned properties abroad but had not mentioned them in their wealth statements.

Subsequently, Supreme Court judge Justice Qazi Faez Isa on Wednesday had requested President Dr Arif Alvi to confirm if a reference had been filed against him.

“I have come to learn that government official are stating that a reference has been filed against me under Article 209 of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan,” Justice Isa had writte in his letter written to Alvi.

“I will be obliged if you could let me know whether this correct, and if it is, to kindly provide me a copy thereof.

“I am confident……. that a reference has been filed, and I’ve been called upon to submit my reply thereto, only subject to the permission of Supreme Judicial Council, the Government may disclose the reference and my response thereto; selective leaks amount to character assassination, jeopardizes my right to due process and fair trial and undermines the institution of the judiciary.”

The SC judge had further written that he was looking forward to hearing from the president. The copy of the letter was also forwarded to the prime minister and registrar of the apex court.

What history says

Two judges in Pakistan’s history have been removed from their post.

Last year, Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui was removed from the post of Islamabad High Court (IHC) judge in light of the SJC’s recommendation over his controversial speech before the District Bar Association, Rawalpindi, on July 21, 2018.

And, prior to that, in 1973, Lahore High Court (LHC) judge Justice Shaukat Ali was removed on charges of misconduct.