ISLAMABAD - A judge of Lahore High Court has challenged the Supreme Judicial Council reference against him in the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

The Council has summoned Justice Mazhar Ali Akbar Naqvi and Justice Shahid Hameed Dar of the LHC on the complaints of misuse of power and misconduct under Article 209 (5) of Constitution.

Justice Mazhar Ali in response has filed a voluminous constitutional petition in the Supreme Court against the SJC reference and its rules through Syed Raza Kazim. The petition has been filed under Article 184(3) of Constitution for the preservation of constitutional Fundamental Rights and fair justice.

The petition raised some fundamental questions. It said on the basis of mere inferences the judges of superior courts could not be penalised.

The lawyer, Raza Kazim said the misconduct has to be proved through facts and not mere assumptions. Those allegations (of misconduct) are based on Justice Mazhar’s judgments which he had delivered over a period of time. He said for the allegations against a judge serious direct evidence is needed, but in the given case inferences were drawn against his client.

The plaintiff, Justice Mazhar contended that the reference against him is unlawful because the Supreme Judicial Council rules were against the spirit of the constitution. Mazhar prayed that the reference against him be declared illegal.

The SJC is a constitutional body of judges empowered under Article 209 of the Constitution to hear cases of misconduct against the superior courts’ judges. It comprises the Chief Justice of Pakistan and two senior-most judges of the Supreme Court and two senior-most chief justices of the high courts.

A judge belonging to the superior judiciary can only be removed on the recommendations of the SJC. No superior court judge has been ousted by the council since the 1970s. The law states that if, after inquiring a matter, the council reports to the president that a judge is incapable of performing his duties or has been guilty of misconduct, the president may remove the judge from office.

Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali, in his first speech after taking oath of his office in September last year, had vowed to make the SJC effective. On October 30, 2015, the chief justice said around 90 percent  of the complaints filed against the judges of superior judiciary had become outdated as the council had been inactive for the past many years.

The council has already held a couple of meetings to listen to grievances against judges. In some cases, further proceedings have also been initiated by the council. However, the media has been restrained from publishing or airing news items about the council’s proceedings without verification and confirmation from the SJC Secretariat.