close
Thursday May 30, 2024

SC registrar's services withdrawn following Justice Isa's letter

Justice Qazi Faez Isa sought removal of Ishrat Ali from office to avoid damage to top court's reputation

By Maryam Nawaz
April 03, 2023
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif chairs a meeting of the federal cabinet in Islamabad, on April 3, 2023. — APP
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif chairs a meeting of the federal cabinet in Islamabad, on April 3, 2023. — APP

ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet has removed Supreme Court Registrar Ishrat Ali from his post after a hard-hitting letter from Justice Qazi Faez Isa, asking the authorities to remove him from office.

The decision was taken during a special meeting of the federal cabinet — held under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif — at the Prime Minister House in Islamabad.

The meeting's participants considered, in detail, a two-point agenda and received a briefing from Minister for Law Senator Azam Nazeer Tarar and Attorney General Mansoor Usman Awan.

The cabinet examined the issue of issuance of a circular by the registrar against the order of the Supreme Court, a statement read, following which he was asked to report to the Establishment Division.

The federal cabinet also asked President Dr Arif Alvi to immediately sign the Supreme Court Practice and Procedure Act 2023 so that the country could be taken out of the constitutional and political crisis.

The letter

Justice Isa, strongly reacting to the March 31 circular issued by the Supreme Court Registrar Office “disregarding” a judgement issued by a three-member bench, earlier in the day asked the Establishment Division to immediately remove Ali to prevent him from further "damaging the reputation and integrity" of the top court.

A special apex court bench, with a two-to-one majority on March 29, ordered suspending all suo motu cases — under Article 184(3) of the Constitution — until amendments are made to the Supreme Court Rules 1980 regarding the discretionary powers of the chief justice to form benches.

In a letter to the top court's registrar, the senior puisne judge said that the Chief Justice of Pakistan cannot issue administrative direction against the judicial order.

“I was astonished to receive your circular' bearing No. Registrar/2023/SCJ dated 31 March 2023. The circular purports to negate, undo, disobey and violate order dated 29 March 2023 of a three-member bench of the Supreme Court. passed in Suo Motu Case No. 4 of 2022. The Registrar does not have the power or authority to undo a judicial order, and the Chief Justice cannot issue administrative directions with regard thereto,” read the letter.

Slamming the registrar, he further wrote: “Your conduct demonstrates that you do not have the requisite competence, ability and understanding to hold the office of Registrar. Moreover, a bureaucrat holding the office of the Registrar violates Article 175(3) of the Constitution, which mandates the complete separation of the judiciary from the executive.

The senior judge asked the registrar to withdraw the circular immediately and inform all those who had set it, adding that it was in the best interest of him and that of the Supreme Court.

Justice Isa maintained that the circular refers to a decision of the SC (Suo Motu Case no. 4/2021, PLD 2022 Supreme Court 306), adding, “If you had read it you would have realised that it pertained to invoking powers under Article 184 (3) of the constitution (suo motu). However, in the subject case suo motu notice had not been taken by the bench before which it was listed for hearing on March 15, 2023. You lost sight of this obvious distinction and did not appreciate that the case cited in the circular was not applicable.”

The SC registrar “apparently violated the Constitution”, Justice Isa noted and urged the authorities to initiate disciplinary proceedings against him in accordance with the applicable laws.