SJC puts off reference against IHC judge till formation of new government

SJC puts off reference against IHC judge till formation of new government

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) on Tuesday put off until formation of a new government the hearing of a reference against a sitting high court judge at the request of Attorney General Khalid Jawed Khan.

Only a day earlier, the council headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar had expressed the intention of completing the long-pending reference within three days even if it required sitting until midnight.

The five-judge SJC was hearing the reference against Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui on renovation of his official residence allegedly beyond entitlement on a complaint by a retired employee of the Capital Development Authority (CDA).

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The council even retired for 10 minutes to afford the AG the opportunity to arrange the documents which the prosecution wanted to exhibit as evidence before the SJC.

But the AG explained after the break that the documents to be exhibited along with the affidavit of Ali Anwar Gopang — a senior CDA official and the originator of the reference — were scattered and very difficult to identify and mark specifically.

Justice Siddiqui going abroad and will be on leave from Aug 9 to 22

Moreover, the entire case against Justice Siddiqui was prepared by former AG Maulvi Anwarul Haq who was assisting then AG Ashtar Ausaf Ali in the reference. Maulvi Haq is currently away on leave and will return to Pakistan in the first week of August.

AG Khan also pleaded that the evidence against the judge could be recorded by the SJC, but it would look odd if he had to leave halfway since the new government would obviously bring its own AG.

Senior counsel Hamid Khan, representing Justice Siddiqui, informed the council that his client would also be going abroad and would be on leave from Aug 9 to 22.

The chief justice, however, closed day’s hearing with an observation that the next date would be fixed keeping in view the dates on which Maulvi Haq returned and the period during which Justice Siddiqui would be away from the country.

Moreover, Hamid Khan also informed the court that his client intended to challenge Monday’s SJC order before the Supreme Court under Article 184 (3) of the Constitution and asserted that the last order did not reflect that the examination-in-chief of Ali Anwar Gopang was done on the basis of his seven-page affidavit and his 2017 complaint. “We are even ready to argue the petition if it is fixed for Wednesday,” offered Hamid Khan.

The council, however, offered the counsel to rectify and even dictated the order in accordance with the wishes of Hamid Khan.

The counsel also highlighted the need for exhibiting the documents as evidence on which the prosecution had to rely during the course of proceedings.

At the outset of Tuesday’s proceedings, Advocate Tariq Asad jumped to the rostrum to inform the council that he intended to recite verses from the Holy Quran before the commencement of the hearing.

And soon after reciting the holy verses, the counsel informed the council that he also had moved a very comprehensive reference against the chief justice that contained substantive material with sufficient grounds which should be heard by the council.

He also requested that the chief justice, who was heading the council, should recuse himself from the hearing.

When Justice Gulzar Ahmed, one of the members of the council, told the lawyer that his reference was not before the council and would be taken up when the times came, Tariq Asad retorted that the present reference against Justice Siddiqui had been fixed and was being heard allegedly at the behest of the intelligence agencies and that the head of the SJC was not sitting in the council as an independent judge.

“Thank you for your information,” Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, also a member of the council, observed and asked the lawyer to take his seat.

During the proceedings, the chief justice clarified that the order of the council was not judicial in nature because the proceedings of the council were quasi-judicial proceedings.