ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) on Thursday was informed that Article 209 bars a president from holding inquiries against judges and as the only institution mandated to do this is the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC).
A 10-member larger bench of the apex court headed by Justice Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Maqbool Baqar, Justice Manzoor Ahmad Malik, Justice Faisal Arab, Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel, Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Yahya Afridi and Justice Qazi Muhammad Amin Ahmed heard the case regarding proceedings of the SJC against Justice Qazi Faez Isa.
The reference filed against Justice Isa alleges that he acquired three properties in London on lease in the name of his wife and children between 2011 and 2015, but did not disclose them in wealth returns.
During the course of proceedings, Advocate Iftikhar Gillani, counsel for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Bar Council (KPBC) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa High Court Bar Association (KPHCBA), said that the whole legal fraternity was involved in the reference. The bench and the bar were two wheels of a cart, he added.
He said that the term of a judge was linked to the independence of the judiciary. It was the request that all the lawyers should collectively plead to the court, he added.
He also said that Article 209 did not authorise the president to inquire into the matter before sending it to the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC).
Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel asked whether the president used his own mind in the reference.
Iftikhar Gillani said the complainant did not even provide a single page proof in this case. No person could play with the dignity of the court, he added.
He asked whether anyone could question the dignity of 17 persons out of the 220 million population, who were judges of the apex court, without any proof. If the court was not given honour then there would be no respect for the whole society, which was ultimately associated with the court, he added.
He said that the case was giving a bad impression. It had eroded the people’s confidence in the judge, he added.
Iftikhar Gillani said that the public was also surprised at the reference and the press conference held by the attorney general on it.
He said that neither the government nor the president had the authority to conduct an investigation under Article 209 on the reference. The president could only ask the SJC for an inquiry, he added.
Justice Faisal Arab said that the representatives of lawyers and bar councils were arguing against one another. Hamid Khan has given different arguments, he added.
Iftikhar Gillani said that his job was not to win a case but to settle the matter with the help of court.
Justice Umar Ata Bandial said that according to Iftikhar Gillani, the reference came from the Prime Minister’s Secretariat and the recommendation of the prime minister in the reference were irrelevant.
Iftikhar Gillani said that the government had no authority for providing information. The reference stated that the complaint was being sent to the SJC on the recommendation of the prime minister.
He asked what was the reason that an inquiry matter was only given to the SJC. He said that the basic point in the reference was to authorise judges to conduct an inquiry against a judge.
He said that the term of a judge had been defined by the apex court. It was a matter of independence of the judiciary. The inquiry against a judge could only be conducted by the SJC and not by the president, he added.
The case was then adjourned till after winter vacation.