Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, an Islamabad High Court Justice known for some of the more erratic judgments passed by the IHC, is no more a judge today. The Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) on Thursday found Justice Siddiqui guilty of misconduct over a speech he delivered in July earlier this year before the Rawalpindi District Bar Association, and this recommendation by the SJC was passed over to the President, Arif Alvi, who formally removed him as a judge of the IHC.

Under Article 209 (6) of the constitution, the Supreme Judicial Council, which is vested with the power to review and inquire into the conduct of judges, can remove a judge of the High Court or Supreme Court if the said judge was found guilty of misconduct. Yet over the years, the SJC has used this power rarely, with there reportedly being only four such proceedings and only two actual removals, Siddiqui’s included. The last judge before Justice Siddiqui to be found guilty by the SJC was removed more than forty years ago.

Exercising a jurisdiction which is so rarely practiced is bound to attract controversy, and this decision by the SJC has prompted criticism at outing Siddiqui for his speech directed against the ISI- a charge some see as a violation of freedom of speech. However, it would be unfair to censure the SJC for this decision -tough times call for tough decisions- Justice Siddqui was next in line to become the Chief Justice of the IHC, and his behaviour certainly did not live up to the conduct expected of a judge.

To say that he was removed because of ISI references in his speech is to be deliberately simplistic. By no count was his in-court behaviour that of a sound and sagacious judge. His conduct was most definitely unbecoming of a judge, on various counts not just one. Some of his judgments have been extremely problematic- like taking up frivolous cases like inquiring into Valentine’s Day and controlling the editorial content for certain Ramadan special television shows- to outright dangerous. Most memorable were his deleterious remarks on the Ahmadi minority where he advocated singling them out for distinct identification.

The High Courts of our country are esteemed institutions which need to inspire trust from the people-unreliable judges cannot fulfill that role. Though not a perfect order by the SJC, it is safe to say that Justice Siddiqui will not be missed.