Islamabad High Court (IHC) deposed judge Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui has told the Supreme Court that the objective behind his controversial speech – which led to his sacking – was to remove undue pressure from the security establishment on the judiciary.
“Through that speech, I wanted to remove the security apparatus’ pressure on courts.
“However, my dilemma was that two senior Supreme Court judges – Mian Saqib Nisar and Asif Saeed Khosa – were against me since 2015,” Siddiqui told a five-judge larger bench on Tuesday in response to one of the bench members’ query as to what motivated him to made that speech.
The bench, presided over by Justice Umar Ata Bandial, was hearing the former judge’s petition against the Supreme Judicial Council’s (SJC) October 2018 decision.
The SJC on October 11, 2018 recommended sacking Justice Siddiqui in view of his July 2018 speech at Rawalpindi bar – a speech in which he had accused the top intelligence agency of manipulating courts.
The SJC, the constitutional forum that can hold superior court judges accountable was then headed by former chief justice Mian Saqib Nisar and included Justice Khosa, Justice Gulzar Ahmed, Lahore High Court Chief Justice Yawar Ali and Sindh High Court Chief Justice Ahmed Ali Sheikh.
The former judge’s comment about the two former chief justices, however, irked two of the bench members who left the proceedings in protest.
Earlier, the presiding judge – Umar Ata Bandial – observed that there are also other factors which influence the judges but the bar’s policy is not uniform in this regard.
Justice Bandial asked Siddiqui’s counsel Hamid Khan how often he spoke about those other factors and actors whose influence sometimes results in placing of cases for hearing even on holidays.
According to Justice Bandial, the institutions and the country are in a state of transition.
“We want to get out from this morass. We have to strengthen institutions. The institutions require support to ensure supremacy to law and the Constitution.”
He asked Hamid Khan to strengthen the judges in his capacity “as a great bar leader.” He lamented that the judiciary was stuck in the time warp since 2009.
Hamid Khan said after a successful lawyers' movement, they thought that the object of independence of the judiciary had been achieved. He said he has been witnessing for the last 70 years “how judicial proceedings are being manipulated”.
Earlier, Hamid Khan read out the petitioner judge replies earlier submitted to the SJC.
The replies highlighted how senior officials of a top agency approached him to influence the IHC proceedings in a bid to stop former prime minister Nawaz Sharif from getting any relief during the hearing of his appeal against his conviction in the Panama Papers case.
He said the petitioner judge was hounded by certain forces. Justice Ahsan asked him if he is alleging mala fide on part of “certain forces” or the SJC. Justice Bandial noted that the petitioner judge should have not maligned an institution in his speech. “The judge must have shown restraint.”
Regarding bars’ concerns against removal of the judge, Justice Bandial noted that the bar has its own priorities. He referred to the case of former SC judge Iqbal Hameedur Rehman, who resigned after a bar filed a complaint against him for alleged irregularities in appointments at the IHC.
Justice Bandial said that Rehman, whose integrity is beyond doubts, had told him that he tendered resignation as he could not face his late father – Justice retired Hamood Rehman – on the Day of Judgment, if the SJC issued him show cause notice.
The SC judge again said the petitioner should have not allowed the spy agency officials to talk to him about the Panama Papers case. However, Justice Bandial twice said that the former IHC judge is “an honourable and honest man”.
Siddiqui’s replies in SJC
Hamid Khan read out Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui replies submitted in the SJC. The replies said the former judge had been removed from the IHC division bench-1 (DB-I) before October 2017.
"The timing makes it obvious that this was a calculated move to exclude me from regular DB-I since appeals regarding the politically sensitive Panama Papers case were to be heard during this time. This to, after I was heading DB-I as Senior Puisne Judge prior to this time"
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"On three occasions I met with the Hon’ble CJ to know the reasons for such an inexplicable turn of events, but the reply I received was astonishing.
“On two occasions the Hon’ble CJ mentioned the pendency of the references against me before the SJC as a cause of exclusion and once an order from higher-ups – ooper walooun ka hukam."
"I replied that you people are not supposed to indulge in such type of activities as the same does not fall within the domain of the ISI, but he had other views.
“He sought permission to leave with the remarks that they would take care of pending references against me and also indicated that Chief Justice IHC may resign due to health issues and in that eventuality I may become CJ in the month of Sep, 2018 instead of Nov, 2018.
“Again, it was shocking for me to know about the claim of this official that he was in a position to influence the proceedings of the honorable SJC.
“On the second visit dated 19.07.2018 Maj Gen Faiz Hameed told [me] that on passing of order dated 18.07.18 by me, he was summoned by General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chief of Army Staff [COAS] and his job is at stake because the COAS showed great annoyance and displeasure on his inability to handle a judge of high court.
“As per him, the COAS directed him to hold a meeting with me to know ‘what Judge sb wants?’ In reply, I stated that I need nothing except that all organs of the state and the respective departments of the executive may remain within the limits prescribed by the Constitution and the law of the land.
“On this, he stated: Sir, it is better to forgive bitterness as you are considered as a very upright and loyal Pakistani even in the ranks of army except a few individuals, therefore, good working relations may be in the interest of Pakistan.
“I inquired from him that if this reputation of mine exists then why have they exercised their influence to ensure that DB-1 headed by me must dissolve the moment cases related to Panama start to land in IHC?
“He very frankly conceded that some members of the team dealing with the cases were of the view that ‘Justice Siddiqui is pro-defence and there is apprehension that he may grant relief to accused persons.’
“When I asked how they manage constitution of a bench to hear appeal against conviction of Nawaz Sharif, he told me that Justice Anwar Khan Kasi, CJ, IHC was approached at Quetta through a common friend, where he was asked to constitute a Division Bench not headed by Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui.
“Justice Kasi in reply informed me that he ‘will constitute a bench to which we are comfortable.’
He, Major General Faiz Hameed, further informed that they wanted assurance that bail plea of accused Nawaz Sharif is not heard/taken up before the General Election dated 25.07.18.
Thereafter, he stated that they wanted that the matter be brought before the DB headed by me for attaching some credence to the proceedings.
To this, I categorically replied that if from the material brought on record, I feel convinced for enhancement of the sentence, I will not hesitate to issue notice for enhancement to the conviction, but if the judgment would not be sustainable in the eyes of law, I will not spoil my hereafter to protect worldly affairs of any.
“From his demeanor, I could tell that this reply of mine did not please him and he left my residence along-with his companion. On both occasions, Major General Faiz Hameed came on an official vehicle of the ICT Administration.
“The statements made by DG ISI and the unfolding of events on the ground clearly substantiate the disclosure of facts by me to the Rawalpindi bar as a gospel truth,” the replies said.