Supreme Judicial Council shares reference copy with Justice Isa

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) has shared with the Supreme Court judge Qazi Faez Isa a copy of the presidential reference that accused him of hiding his foreign assets as it reveals for the first time the number of complaints it has so far received and disposed of.

A copy of the reference will also be shared with Sindh High Court judge KK Agha, who is also accused of not disclosing the value of his foreign assets, on Monday (tomorrow).

The SJC, which on Friday, heard the references against the judges amid lawyers’ countrywide protests also offers Justice Isa, a Supreme Court judge in line to become the country’s top judge, the option that he, if he desires, may present his stance before the SJC at the stage of preliminary inquiry.

A lawyer, who supports Justice Isa in this reference saga, believes that it is a good approach as the SJC instead of directly sending a show cause notice, has shared copy of the reference under paragraph No 8 (3) of the SJC Procedure of Enquiry 2005.

“If the council is of the view that before forming an opinion, it should also hear the judge under enquiry, it shall require the said judge to present himself before the council. The council shall provide him the information and material received against him,” says paragraph No 8 (3) of the SJC Procedure.

A copy of the reference, along with other documents, was delivered to the Supreme Court judge at his Islamabad residence on Friday night, media has learnt.

However, there is no official confirmation about delivery of reference copies to the two judges.

On Friday, a five-member SJC bench – comprising Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Asif Saeed Khosa, Justice Gulzar Ahmed, Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, the SHC Chief Justice Ahmed Ali M Shaikh and the Peshawar High Court (PHC) Chief Justice Waqar Ahmed Seth – heard the references amid lawyers’ protests.

The presidential references against the two judges invited criticism from the legal fraternity with the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) demanding President Dr Arif Alvi’s impeachment for filing the reference and other bar associations also expressing solidarity with the top court judge.

Lawyers from bar councils across the country staged a protest outside the SC on Friday. Lawyers, led by the SCBA, wore black bands in solidarity with the accused judges and also burned copies of references.

Leadership of the two leading lawyers’ groups – the Professionals and the Independents — were present to express solidarity with the judges.

SJC reveals total number of complaints

The SJC on Saturday revealed for the first time that the total number of complaints filed so far against superior judges has been 426. Three Hundred and Ninety Eight (398) of these references have been disposed of, while only 28 cases are pending.

The 28 pending references include the two presidential references filed against Justice Isa and Justice KK Agha. The disclosure came from the Supreme Court public relations officer (PRO) after some members of the legal fraternity claimed during their protests that about 350 references were pending.

According to the statement, all the 398 cases were processed as per the SJC Procedure of Enquiry 2005.  “All the cases are in process and shall be disposed of due in course of time,” it said.

The SJC has so far removed only one judge – Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui of the Islamabad High Court after its proceedings.  When the council initiated proceedings, few judges resigned to save pension benefits. Likewise, a number of complaints became infructuous after retirement of the accused judges..

Earlier, the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) Executive Member Raheel Kamran Sheikh had approached the SC seeking complete disclosure of complaints and references filed against judges. However, the top court had turned down his plea.

Responding to the SC’s statement, Sheikh said: These are important disclosures made by the SJC aimed primarily at controlling surmises, conjectures and misleading statements. However, such disclosures should not remain a onetime exercise rather it must be made a permanent feature.

“The disclosure made right now neither reveals how many complaints were disposed of as having become infructuous on account of retirement of the judges accused of misconduct nor does such disclosure reveal how many complaints were dismissed being false or not making out misconduct on part of the learned judge accused and what action, if any, was taken against the complainants thereof.

“As much as independence of the judiciary is endangered by the absence of judicial accountability, it is equally important to safeguard judges from unwarranted external attacks and sternly deal with those involved in maligning of the judges,” said Sheikh in a statement.