Friday June 21, 2024

Top court prayed to review verdict barring SJC from action against ex-judges

Caretaker federal government seeks nullification of 2023 judgment in Afiya Sheherbano case

By Maryam Nawaz
January 23, 2024
The Supreme Court of Pakistan building and sign board in Islamabad. — AFP
The Supreme Court of Pakistan building and sign board in Islamabad. — AFP

ISLAMABAD: Soon after the Supreme Court reserved a verdict on former high court judge Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui’s plea on Tuesday, the caretaker federal government sought nullification of the 2023 judgment in the Afiya Shehrbano Zia case which barred the top judicial council from taking action against ex-jurists.

Nominating the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC), the top court’s registrar and others as parties, the government filed a plea against the 2023 verdict under the SC (Practice and Procedure) Act, 2023.

The move came shortly after the top court reserved a verdict on Siddiqui’s petition, who is an ex-Islamabad High Court (IHC) judge, against his dismissal from the post.

The petition sought the apex court to lay down rules on whether the judicial council can continue the action against judges even after they have tendered their resignations.

The government demanded the top court to declare its verdict in the Afiya Sheherbano case null and void.

A three-member bench of the top court on June 27, 2023, ruled that the SJC cannot take or continue action against the jurists if they step down or retire.

The judgment held that judges who retire or resign do not fall within the ambit of Article 209 of the Constitution that determines misconduct of superior court judges.

Earlier in the day, the top court in short order on Siddiqui's plea stated:

"If deemed necessary, further judicial action can be taken by the Supreme Court."

The court asked:

  • What relief can be given if Shaukat Siddiqui's appeal is approved?
  • Can the Supreme Court refer the matter back to the Supreme Judicial Council?
  • Is the judge's speech itself not against the code of conduct if council action is not required?”

It directed the parties to submit their responses to the aforementioned questions within three weeks.

It must be noted that the former IHC judge was removed from his position for his speech targeting intelligence agencies when he was addressing the Rawalpindi Bar Association on July 21, 2018.

In his address, the ex-judge accused sensitive institutions of interfering in judicial work.

Multiple references were subsequently filed against him which included extra expenses on government residence, two related references against him passing remarks during the hearing of the Faizabad sit-in case in 2017, another seeking his dismissal and one taken up by the SJC following on a complaint filed against him in the wake of the speeches.

He was eventually dismissed from the post on October 11, 2018, after the SJC decided to dismiss him.

The judge then challenged his dismissal by the SJC in 2018 and his case has been ongoing ever since with the last hearing on the constitutional petition held on June 13, 2022.

Siddiqui, in his petition, requested to cancel the dismissal notification issued against him as an IHC judge.

The judge is being represented by senior lawyer Hamid Khan, while parties in the petition include the Islamabad Bar Association and Karachi Bar Association.