ISLAMABAD: Members of the legal fraternity are divided on the question whether the petition against Justice Qazi Faez Isa – the only Supreme Court (SC) judge from Balochistan – is frivolous, malafide or has some genuine ‘substance’ that can lead to his dismissal from justiceship, Pakistan Today has learned during talks with prominent lawyers.
Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Saqib Nisar-led three-member bench is taking up the petition against Justice Isa on April 4, which has been filed by Advocate Riaz Rahi – a habitual petitioner – challenging his appointment as Balochistan High Court (BHC) chief justice in August 2009 and later elevation to Supreme Court in September 2014.
The anticipated order of the court has given rise to ceaseless speculations about nature and consequences that can accrue from the act of taking up another reference against an SC judge.
It is pertinent to mention here that multiple references against other judges of Lahore High Court (LHC) and Islamabad High Court (IHC) have been languishing in Supreme Judicial Council for past many years.
Recently, various bar councils including Pakistan Bar Council, Punjab Bar Council and other provincial bars have demanded that not only the process of elevation to higher judiciary be made more transparent, but steps must be taken to ensure across the board accountability of judges.
“This petition has levelled serious allegations and raises a question whether the appointment of Justice Isa as BHC chief justice was against rules and regulations. In his appointment, neither the chief minister was consulted nor the governor, who was on leave and Justice Isa’s notification was issued by the acting governor. So there are lags and lapses,” said former Supreme Court Bar Association President and Supreme Court Advocate Barrister Ali Zafar while talking to Pakistan Today.
Zafar said that the SC has sent many bureaucrats, parliamentarians, SECP chairman, a former NAB chairman and a former OGRA chairman packing because their initial appointments were not made properly. “It is about time that judiciary holds itself accountable to the same standards it has fixed for others,” he concluded.
Supreme Court Advocate Kamran Murtaza, who is also Pakistan Bar Council Vice Chairman, while talking to Pakistan Today, said that he has inquired about the matter personally. “It was a dumped matter for past two years and came to the fore out of the blue,” he added.
“It is an utterly frivolous litigation as they came to know about the elevation after so many years. The petitioner has no locus standi and major chances are that it will be dismissed,” Murtaza said.
When asked whether there is a conspiracy behind the whole affair, he replied in negative. “Some people do such things for fame and can stoop to any low for few moments in the spotlight. This petitioner is no different,” he concluded.
Pakistan Bar Council member Azam Nazeer Tarar was of the opinion that petition against Justice Qazi Faez Isa is devoid of substance. “There is no substance to it and it should be objected and dismissed,” Tarar said.
When asked about the other references against high court judges and whether they should be allowed to have open court proceedings, he said that if a person wants to be heard in public, there is no reason to deny his wish. “It is a new world and it’s about time that we come out of the archaic mindset. Transparency is everything,” he added.
Interestingly, both Munir A Malik and Hamid Khan, who were asked to assist the Supreme Court on the matter of open court proceedings of references against the judges of higher courts, have told the apex court that for the greater transparency, the trial should be held in open.
According to the traditional view, the in-camera nature of hearing of references is preferred as it is a trial of a peer by fellow peers. Till date, the actual proceedings of the Supreme Judicial Council have remained obscure from media.
“Supreme Judicial Council is a constitutional mechanism to remove the judges of higher judiciary from their posts if it is established that they are incapable of performing their duties, owing to any physical or mental incapacities, or have been guilty of misconduct. Judges can’t be tried in a normal court of law,” Supreme Court Advocate and former additional district and sessions judge Muhammad Majid Bashir said.
He said that it is the prerogative of the CJP to take up the reference and once he is satisfied that there is ample evidence against a judge, he issues notices. “Previously, the complaints were taken up from specific quarters. Now, however, any complaint by any person can be taken up,” he added.
Justice Qazi Faez Isa has a repute of hardworking, judicious and a well-learned judge. Many in the legal fraternity consider him to be a man of impeccable character and sound judgment.
Justice Isa’s no-nonsense approach has led not only to quick disposal of cases but has also deterred frivolous and mala-fide litigators from filing petitions. His report on a suicide attack on lawyers in Quetta in August 2016 created ripples when he fixed the responsibility on Interior Ministry for their utter failure to safeguard the lives of their fellow countrymen.