ISLAMABAD: A serving Lahore High Court (LHC) judge has raised objection over the composition of the Supreme Judicial Council in a case of alleged misconduct against him.
Sources revealed to The Express Tribune that the LHC judge, whose name was mentioned in the Panama Papers, has objected over one member of the council, adding that same member is facing misconduct proceedings and should not be on the council.
Lawyer Hamid Khan argued on behalf of the LHC judge. Later, the SJC reserved the order on the contention of the LHC judge. It is to be noted that the council initiated proceedings against him last year after his name popped up in the Panama Papers.
The council is holding proceedings against four superior court judges – two from the LHC and two from the Islamabad High Court. One of the IHC judges is also a member of the council.
One LHC judge had resigned after the initiation of proceedings against him. The council also dropped proceedings against one Sindh High Court judge.
The SJC will also take up the complaint against another Islamabad High Court judge today (Tuesday).
The same IHC judge has already approached the Supreme Court requesting that he be given an open trial before the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC).
The IHC judge filed a constitutional petition in the apex court under Article 184 (3), making the council and the federation respondents. He will be represented by lawyers Makhdoom Ali Khan and Hamid Khan.
Earlier, the SJC on May 18 dismissed his plea seeking an open trial. The council was scheduled to resume hearing the misconduct case on October 10.
But the IHC judge’s 14-page constitutional petition has requested the SC to declare that SJC’s May 18 order was passed without lawful authority. He also pleaded the court to suspend SJC proceedings against him till a decision is made on his petition.
The judge also requested that the SJC be told that he has a fundamental right to insist that an inquiry into his conduct be conducted publicly.
The petition states that the council’s May 18 order, by upholding paragraph 13 (1) of the SJC Procedure of Inquiry 2005, which permits the proceedings of the council in-camera, violates Article 10-A of the Constitution, adding that Article 10-A provides every citizen with the right to a fair trial and due process.
“It is not in the interest of the judiciary if proceedings are held in-camera. It will damage the image of the institution. The guardians of justice cannot deny their brethren the protection of a public hearing and due process,” says the petition.
The petition states that the IHC judge has nothing to hide as his dignity is not compromised if the proceedings are held in-camera. Likewise, it is stated that due process requires that a person must be given a reasonable opportunity to defend himself, adding that this is not guaranteed in a secret trial.
“Under Article 210 (2) of the constitution, the provisions of Article 204 contempt of court are applicable to the proceedings before the SJC. This gives it powers akin to those of a high court or indeed the Supreme Court. The status of SJC is thus similar to that of a constitutional court. It is indeed an institution created by the constitution. Anybody vested the powers to punish for contempt is for all practical purposes a body which determines the right and liabilities and has a duty to act fairly,” it states.