LAHORE - A constitutional petition was filed in the Supreme Court yesterday seeking directions for Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) to dispose of all references or complaints filed against judges pending since its inception.

Mumtaz Mustafa advocate, Chairman Executive Committee Punjab Bar Council, filed the petition, submitting that the SJC was established to hold accountability of the judges of the Supreme Court and the high court under Article 209 of the Constitution. But unfortunately, he said, it was not working effectively as no disclosure was made in this regard.

The Supreme Judicial Council does not share information even if any citizen approaches it to know whether any action was taken against any judge found guilty of misconduct or professional dishonesty, according to the petitioner. Thus, it violates the Constitution, he says.

“It may be in the public interest to withhold information about the nature of any particular complaint so as to avoid scandalising of a judge for as long as he serves on the bench. But there is no justification for withholding information regarding the total number of complaints received by Supreme Judicial Council, period of time during which such complaints were received and status thereof,” the petition reads.

Mr Mustafa said the Pakistan Bar Council in its 211th meeting held on June 13, 2015, adopted a resolution requesting the SJC to decide references currently pending before it on merit and without any further delay, with copies of the same to be forwarded to them.

The incumbent Chief Justice of Pakistan, Anwar Zaheer Jamali, in his address to the legal fraternity, declared his intention of expeditiously hearing and disposing of references pending before the SJC. However, to date, no new information has been disclosed with regards to the status of any reference or complaint having been decided by the SJC except for the statement of the CJP on November 30, 2015, Mustafa added.

He quoted the statement of the CJP in which he had said that 90 percent of complaints filed against judges of the superior judiciary had become outdated, because the council had been inactive for the past few years and that the vast majority of references had become infructuous as most these judges had retired after completing their terms.

Also quoting a local newspaper’s story about more than 200 complaints of misconduct against the judges of superior courts, Mustafa submitted: “It is prerequisite for ensuring the independence of the judiciary that judges are able to make judicial pronouncements without fear or favour.

“A judge against whom a reference or complaint under Article 209 of the Constitution has been filed can be amenable to pressures and exploitations; therefore, he can readily compromise his integrity, impartiality and independence. It is, therefore, imperative that all references or complaints under Article 209 of the Constitution must be decided as expeditiously as possible.”

He suggests all references or complaints must be fixed for hearing before the respondent within a week of receipt thereof and those which are not worthy of proceeding further, must be rejected while others must be decided within the period of one month. In the meanwhile, if the facts and circumstances of the complaint so warrant, an appropriate order such as removal of judicial work from the judge against whom a reference or complaint worthy of proceeding is pending, should be passed, he submits.

The petitioner also put different questions before the Supreme Court through his petition whether the existence of an effective system of accountability as envisaged by Article 209 of the Constitution is not a prerequisite for independence of the judiciary, whether disclosure of information such as the total number of References/Complaints filed with the Supreme Judicial Council, and current status thereof is not a fundamental right of every citizen as guaranteed by article 19-A of the Constitution.

If so then whether the council has made such disclosures to the citizens in the public interest?

He has also questioned whether expeditious disposal of all the references or complaints filed before the council is not one of the most essential considerations for determining the effectiveness of accountability of judges of the superior courts.

Whether any Judge of the SC or higher courts against whom a complaint or reference is pending can be expected to dispense justice independently and without fear or favour?

Whether administration of justice and independence of judiciary shall be adversely effected if references or complaints pending before the council are not decided expeditiously, and till such time, the judges against whom there is prima facie case to proceed, should be restrained from performing any judicial work?

The petitioner further submitted that to say that judges must be independent enough to render impartial justice and resist intimidation does not mean that they must be so independent as to be unaccountable, “for judicial accountability is a safe system of the administration of justice”.

He asked the court to order enforcement of fundamental rights of citizens embodied in Articles 9, 10A and 19A of the Constitution and to dispose of all references filed against judges of the Supreme Court and the higher courts as expeditiously as possible.

He further prayed to the court to make public disclosure of the total number of references/complaints filed before it since its constitution, how many cases proceedings were initiated, how many references or complaints were dropped after consideration and how many have become infructuous.