News Desk |
Legion of lawyers staged a protest outside the Supreme Court on Friday and burned copies of references filed against the apex court judge Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Sindh High Court judge Justice KK Agha over non-disclosure of foreign properties in their wealth statements.
Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) president Amanullah Kanrarni renewed his commitment to burn copies of the references outside the apex court as the lawyers across the country observed strike on the call of the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC). To express solidarity with the accused judges, the lawyers wore black bands and demanded that the references against the judges be dropped.
The judges will only be put on notice if the council is convinced that the presidential references are maintainable. Otherwise, the council can drop the proceedings.
All eyes are on the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) which will take up the references filed by President Arif Alvi against two superior court judges on Friday (today) at 2pm. The SJC proceedings will be held in camera.
KBA Cancels Membership of AGP, Law Minister
It is pertinent to mention that the Karachi Bar Association (KBA) has already canceled the membership of the Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Anwar Mansoor Khan and Law Minister Barrister Farogh Naseem.
The lawyers said that the references were filed after input by the law minister and AGP, who remained counsel for the former military ruler Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf. They said that the AGP office has also given its opinion on the references.
The SJC had issued a notice to AGP Mansoor with directions to appear as a prosecutor and convince the council to begin formal proceedings in the matter. The judges will only be put on notice if the council is convinced that the presidential references are maintainable. Otherwise, the council can drop the proceedings.
SCBA president Kanrani told the media on Friday that the council was a subordinate institution to the apex court which had on July 20, 2007, thrown out a reference instituted by then military ruler Gen Pervez Musharraf against former chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry on misconduct.
On last hearing, the SJC had issued a notice to AGP in order to obtain his legal assistance in deciding the maintainability of references. After AGP’s legal assistance, the legal experts said, the council may issue show-cause notices to the judges with directions to submit their reply within a specified time period. The SJC can initiate a trial if the replies are not satisfactory.
Previously, in 2007, President Musharraf had, on recommendation of the then Prime Minister, Shaukat Aziz, filed a reference of misconduct against Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry.
According to Rule 10(2) of SJC Procedure, Inquiry, 2005, “The council may require the AGP or any other counsel to appear and assist the council in relation to smooth and efficient conduct of its proceedings.”
Composition of CJP Khosa-led Supreme Judicial Council
The SJC – a constitutional body tasked with scrutinizing the conduct of superior court judges – is the only forum for initiating action against judges over misconduct. It consists of five top judges. Composition of the SJC will be very important in this matter.
Interestingly, three SC judges who are members of SJC were part of the larger bench which had disqualified former prime minister Nawaz Sharif on account of non-disclosure of foreign assets in his nomination papers.
Currently, CJP Khosa, who is retiring in December, is the chairman of the council. Other members are: Justice Gulzar Ahmad, Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, Chief Justice Sindh High Court Justice Ahmed Ali M Shaikh and Chief Justice Peshawar High Court Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth.
Legal experts say the addition of Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed as SJC member will be significant as “he is going to retire in August”. Justice Gulzar is said to be the future chief justice of Pakistan.
Reference Against Ex-CJP Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry
Previously, in 2007, President Musharraf had, on recommendation of the then Prime Minister, Shaukat Aziz, filed a reference of misconduct against Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. It was related to the alleged influence peddling by the Chief Justice for his son Arsallan Iftikhar who entered civil services of Pakistan through a very twisted route and was promoted at exceptional speed.
In the reference, petitioner Advocate Waheed Shahzad Butt has pleaded that the judge had committed a gross misconduct by writing the letters and then allegedly sharing it with the media.
SJC had taken up the matter but it remained inconclusive when lawyers’ movement broke out and a suspended CJP Chaudhry was restored by the full bench of Supreme Court. However, privately all legal experts agreed that reference was properly filed and if SJC had heard the case then Iftikhar Chaudhry could not have explained his position.
Ex-CJP Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry Asks SJC not to Reject Reference
Meanwhile, the former chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry wrote to the SJC and asked the council not to entertain rather reject the reference against Justice Isa by holding it against the constitutional provisions and being false, untrue and without substance.
The communication by Justice Chaudhry also asked the SJC to suggest appropriate action against the president and the prime minister as provided under Rule 14 of the Supreme Judicial Council Procedure of Inquiry 2005.
He said the prime minister and the president, as per the requirements of their oath under Articles 42 and 91(5) of the Constitution were bound not to communicate or reveal to any person any matter which would be brought under their consideration or become known to them except as may be required for the discharge of their duties.
Lawyer Files Reference Against Justice Isa for Writing Letters to President Alvi
Meanwhile, the media reported, a lawyer filed a private reference against Justice Isa in the SJC under Article 209 of the Constitution for allegedly violating the code of conduct for judges by writing two letters to President Dr Arif Alvi.
In the reference, petitioner Advocate Waheed Shahzad Butt has pleaded that the judge had committed a gross misconduct by writing the letters and then allegedly sharing it with the media, thus liable to be removed on the recommendations of the SJC.
“By choosing a public forum for voicing his personal and subjective views and opinions, the judge has denounced the judiciary of this country as a whole, targeted the chief executive (prime minister) of the country and used offensive language to criticize the matter,” the reference alleged.