Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, a former judge of the Islamabad High Court, on Tuesday denied any links with any officer in the army, with his lawyer telling the Supreme Court that a top intelligence officer had allegedly himself visited the judge at the latter’s residence.
The former judge’s remarks came as a five-member larger bench of the apex court headed by Justice Umar Ata Bandial resumed hearing an appeal instituted by Siddiqui against his removal from office.
Justice Siddiqui was removed from the high judicial office on the recommendation of the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) under Article 209 of the Constitution for “displaying a conduct unbecoming of a judge” when he delivered a speech at the District Bar Association, Rawalpindi, on July 21, 2018.
The former judge had accused certain officers of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of interfering in the judiciary’s affairs. He alleged that the accused “manipulate the formation” of benches in high courts. The former judge had also blamed the judiciary for allegedly undermining democratic norms in the country.
During the hearing, senior counsel Hamid Khan, who is pleading Siddiqui’s case, argued that his client had been “deliberately targetted” by some forces.
He said under the Constitution, the SJC was bound to conduct the inquiry against a judge itself and examine all the record and testimonies.
Khan said Siddiqui had been removed in 2018 with mala fide intent after SJC issued him a show-cause notice.
“While the SJC has the authority to conduct an inquiry against a judge, it cannot dismiss him,” the lawyer argued.
Khan recalled that Justice Siddiqui had submitted a reply, the same year, to the show-cause notice issued to him.
Siddiqui, in reply to the notice, said that “General Faiz Hameed [current DG ISI] came to his residence”, the lawyer told the court, adding: “Gen Faiz asked [Siddiqui] to withdraw the order for the removal of encroachments from [outside] the ISI headquarters and green belts.”
At this, Justice Bandial remarked that it was “surprising” that the ISI chief had made such a demand from Siddiqui.
“You were dismayed at something else and you insulted your own institution and the chief justice,” the judge said while addressing Siddiqui, who was present in the court.
“You are accepting yourself that you had meetings with the DG,” Justice Bandial told him. “You met him twice; you had relations with him.”
This prompted Justice Siddiqui to stand up in his seat and reply, “I have no relations with anyone in the army,” adding that he was residing in Islamabad along with his family “despite all kinds of threats”.
Justice Bandial assured the former judge that members of the court knew that he was an “honest person”.
Siddiqui then said he had delivered the speech that led to his ultimate sacking “to reduce the pressure” on judges.
“Unfortunately, I have been under pressure since December 2015,” the former judge said, alleging that former chief justices Mian Saqib Nisar and Asif Saeed Khosa “had always wanted to show me the door”.
“We don’t want to hear your speech,” Justice Bandial replied, saying Siddiqui had “started naming names”.
Justice Bandial told Siddiqui that he was “angry at the ISI” but had resorted to disrespecting the judiciary.
“You should have worked for the protection of your institution. Think of the institutions that work for the protection of the judiciary,” he said.
Siddiqui’s counsel Khan said: “The bar too works for the protection of the judiciary.”
Justice Bandial replied that although the bar was always present for the assistance of judges, “with due respect, the bar has its own policy according to which it functions”.
“It was due to the bar’s criticism that Justice Iqbal Hameedur Rehman resigned. The bar often gets emotional,” the judge added.
The hearing of the case was adjourned indefinitely.
Application for early hearing
In Wednesday’s hearing, the SC had wondered why the appellant (Siddiqui) had entertained senior intelligence officers at his residence, that too three times.
“Please consider this question that not one but three times senior ISI officers came to you,” Justice Bandial had told Siddiqui. The observation came when his counsel Hamid Khan said the former judge had no choice in the matter as the officials had come to his house.
“We as judges live isolated from the world,” Justice Bandial had said, and asked the counsel to assist the court in determining the difference between the freedom of speech available to common citizens and judges.
The case was adjourned indefinitely after a preliminary hearing on June 2.
The hearing of Siddiqui’s appeal was then fixed for June 7 after the former judge moved a fresh application seeking its early hearing. However, the case could not be taken up on Monday because one member was not available, and it was subsequently rescheduled to Tuesday.
The single-page application submitted by Justice Siddiqui had pleaded that the matter was of public importance and required speedy adjudication by the court.
Under normal circumstances, an indefinite adjournment does not bother a petitioner, but it assumed significance in this case since Shaukat Siddiqui is due to retire on June 30.
“The petitioner seeks indulgence of this court for the early fixing of the titled petition in the interest of justice,” his application said, requesting that the case be fixed for June 7.