ISLAMABAD: Former judge, Shaukat Siddiqui, has contended he was removed as a judge of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) without holding an inquiry on the allegations he made in his speech.
Justice Siddiqui was removed on the recommendation of the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) for making speech at the District Bar Association, Rawalpindi on July 2018.
He had accused certain officers of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of interfering in the judiciary’s affairs.
Hamid Khan Advocate, representing the ex-IHC judge contended that since the order passed in Faizabad Dharna case, former chief justice Saqib Nisar started a “witch-hunt” against him for being an independent judge. A five-judge bench, headed by Justice Umar Ata Bandial, heard Siddiqui’s petition against the SJC’s recommendations and the federal government’s notification for his removal.
During the proceeding, Justice Ijazul Ahsan said the inquiry is conducted when facts are denied, but here the petitioner has accepted the speech and its contents. Hamid Khan said that his client was removed without an inquiry, which is the dictate of Article 209 of the Constitution. It was unprecedented that the inquiry was denied to the judge.
Justice Tariq Masood asked why the IHC judge failed to issue contempt notices to the military officials who allegedly approached him to influence proceedings in the Panama Papers case. “Why did the judge entertain the said military officials at his residence at all,” he further asked.
Upon that Siddiqui approached the rostrum and asked the bench if he should have been removed from his post for not issuing a contempt notice to a general? “There is a need to understand the circumstances. Then chief justice Mian Saqib Nisar was breathing down my neck and wanted to sack me on account of my independent conduct that was irksome to a spy agency at that time,” claimed the ex-judge.
Siddiqui stated that he had been lawyer for 30 years and served as a judge of the high court for seven years and the litigant for the last three years. “I understand the judicial system much better.” “Hang me if you want,” he stated in anger.
Justice Bandial took exception to his tone and said even the “worst litigants” do not address the court in this tone. He also chided lawyer Hamid Khan for allowing his client to address the court.
“You are not discouraging your client even though he is maligning the institution,” Justice Bandial said, while addressing Hamid Khan.
Justice Bandial said the real issue in the case was the dignity of judges and the institution, asking whether the petitioner’s speech at the bar council violated the code of conduct.
Hamid Khan argued that former CJ Saqib Nisar was targeting Siddiqui for a couple of years before he was removed. He said the former judge was put on notice for making observations against the military officials in the Faizabad sit-in case.
Justice Mazhar Alam Miankhel questioned why the former judge had been targeted by ex-CJP Nisar.
“Because he [Siddiqui] was annoying the premier spy agency; that’s why a show-cause notice was issued to him,” Hamid Khan replied.
At this, the bench asked the counsel to furnish copies of the SJC notice issued on February 22, 2018, and the complaints against the ex-IHC judge’s remarks against the military at the next hearing.
Justice Ijazul Ahsan observed that the SJC did not say the allegations levelled by the former judge were false, but his speech at the bar council violated the judicial code of conduct. “Can a judge deliver such a speech at a public forum,” he asked.
The lawyer defended his client, saying the speech was delivered at an event hosted by a bar association that is part of the justice system. He added many judges give addresses at bars. The counsel said that an appropriate inquiry should have been conducted on the allegations levelled against him instead of his removal from the IHC post. The case was adjourned until today (Tuesday).
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021