ISLAMABAD - Observing that there was no inkling of haste, the Supreme Judicial Council Monday decided to adjudicate an alleged misconduct reference against Islamabad High Court judge Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui within three days.

The SJC, headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, also rejected applications of Justice Siddiqui, including the one seeking the record of expenditures incurred on the renovation of residences of superior courts’ judges.

The SJC observed it was the sole prerogative of the council to decide whether it accepted any application or otherwise.

Justice Siddiqui is accused of spending extra money on the renovation of his official residence than he was entitled to by pressuring an official of the Capital Development Authority (CDA).

The five-member SJC, headed by the chief justice, conducted the trial of Justice Siddiqui in the open court. A large number of lawyers and journalists were present to witness the open court hearing as it was for the first time that the council, which conducts its session in-camera, took up the reference against a sitting judge in the open court on the request of the accused judge.

A considerable number of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz lawyers who used to show up during the Panama Papers case to express solidarity with the Sharif family were also present to witness the proceedings.

Justice Siddiqui remained busy in conversation with his counsel Hamid Khan before the arrival of the council members in the courtroom.

Each time Justice Siddiqui had to stand from his seat to greet the lawyers who had shown up to meet him and express solidarity with him. The support of the lawyers invited the attention of journalists when one lawyer told Justice Siddiqui from behind in a louder voice: “We are with you”.

When the hearing commenced, Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Khalid Jawed Khan, who is acting as a prosecutor in the matter, informed the SJC that evidence would be recorded as the total number of witnesses was six in addition to one more witness who was additional registrar of the IHC for production of the record.

Advocate Hamid Khan, representing Justice Siddiqui, contended before the council that he had filed two applications seeking issuance of directions to the authorities concerned for the provision of seven years’ record of the Supreme Court and all high courts’ judges’ residential renovation and cost incurred on these renovations as well as details of record on the basis of which allegations had been levelled against his client.

Chief Justice Nisar asked if there was any relevance of the record of other judges with the charge-sheet against Justice Siddiqui. He also made it clear to the counsel, observing “we are not going to prolong the proceedings.”

He further observed the applications had not sought the record of a specific judge, but all superior court judges, which was irrelevant to the case.

Hamid Khan then read the allegations in the charge-sheet and argued the record of other judges was sought to carry out a comparative analysis.

The chief justice reminded the counsel of the scope of inquiry, saying such a request would expand its scope.

The prosecutor also opposed the contention and said the request of Justice Siddiqui was general in nature while the allegation against him was very specific.

The counsel referred to the sub-para I of Para 21 of High Court Judges (Leave, Pension and Privileges) Order, 1997, which says: “A judge shall be entitled, without payment of rent, to the use of a residence throughout his term of office and for a period of thirty days thereafter and no charge shall fall on him personally in respect of its maintenance”.

The Supreme Judicial Council, however, observed the matter was at evidence stage and there was no need of arguments at this time.

On this enraged Justice Siddiqui took to the rostrum and aggressively said he should be given the record for the purpose of defence. “In order to be cross-examined, I need the record. I am completely handicapped,” he said. However, the chief justice told Justice Siddiqui to communicate through his lawyer instead of speaking at the rostrum directly.

Justice Siddiqui told the council, “This impression should be given that I am treated equally.”

The chief justice observed it was the prerogative of the council to accept the application or otherwise and the decision would not be made on the wish of a client.

Justice Siddiqui who was persuaded by Hamid Khan to sit on his seat loudly said, “I want the fair decision.”

The chief justice expressed displeasure and directed Hamid Khan to tell his client to at least respect the SJC and avoid addressing the council in this manner.

The council then dismissed all the applications. However, Hamid Khan again requested the court not to give the impression that there was haste in deciding the case. He further said justice should not be done, but also seemed to be done.

The chief justice remarked justice was the right of every citizen, including the judges. He further observed that he too wanted to see the judge leaving from here with a clean chit if there was nothing against him, adding there would be no bigger injustice if a judge himself was not able to get justice.

Hamid Khan contended he wanted to see the details which were not part of the record. He questioned how he would argue in the absence of the record. He again requested for record, adding it would be helpful in defence.

The chief justice observed the applications had been dismissed, adding the council would look into it when it required.

“There has been an impression that we (SJC) take a lenient view of our own institution. But now it is time for us to decide the references one by one. I do not want to retire without finishing the backlog,” the chief justice observed.

Later, the hearing was adjourned till Tuesday (today) when witness Ali Gopang would be cross-examined.

 

 

SJC to decide Siddiqui Reference in three days