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Supreme Court Reserves Verdict on Former IHC Judge’s Challenge to Removal

In a crucial development, the Supreme Court (SC) has reserved its verdict on Tuesday regarding the petition filed by former Islamabad High Court (IHC) judge Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui challenging his removal from office in 2018.

The five-member bench, led by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa, heard the case and ordered all respondents to submit their replies within three weeks.

President Arif Alvi removed Justice Siddiqui on October 11, 2018, based on the Supreme Judicial Council’s (SJC) recommendation. The removal was executed under Article 209(5) on the recommendation of the SJC under Article 209(6) read with Article 48(1) of the Constitution.

The SJC unanimously opined that Justice Siddiqui, in a speech before the District Bar Association in Rawalpindi, displayed conduct unbecoming of a high court judge. The judge had made serious allegations against the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), accusing the agency of manipulating judicial proceedings. The SJC’s decision prompted Siddiqui’s petition challenging the constitutionality of his removal.

During the recent hearing, CJP Isa observed that a proper inquiry was not conducted in the case, emphasizing the need for clarity on the allegations’ veracity. Siddiqui’s lawyer proposed declaring the SJC’s sacking as unconstitutional, suggesting the formation of a commission to investigate the judge’s allegations.

The court deliberated on the independence of the judiciary, the working of the judicial council, and the necessity for a fair inquiry into the allegations. The attorney general and other respondents were urged to provide input on the matter. The court raised questions about the violation of the judges’ code of conduct, the nature of the speech, and the potential need for a comprehensive inquiry.

The attorney general requested a review of the Afia Zia Shehrbano case, arguing that Siddiqui’s status as a retired judge would become invalid if the council’s action is invalidated. The court reserved its verdict, highlighting the importance of upholding legal procedures and ensuring a fair process.