SJC proceedings against judges won’t halt even after resignation, rules SC


ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) of Pakistan on Wednesday ruled that the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) proceedings once initiated cannot be halted even after “resignation or retirement” of judges.

A five-member larger bench announced the verdict following the completion of hearings on the federal government’s appeal against Supreme Court’s judgment delivered in 2023 in Afia Sheharbano Zia’s case.

The five-member bench, led by Justice Aminuddin Khan, presided over the case, which saw a split decision with a ratio of 1-4, as Justice Hassan Azhar Rizvi dissented from the majority judgment.

The Supreme Court’s decision reinforces the autonomy of the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) to pursue inquiries against judges, regardless of their resignation status.

In the short verdict today, the top court noted that it’s the discretion of the SJC whether or not to proceed against a judge in a pending complaint. The SC said the detailed reasons for the verdict Will be issued later.

During the hearings, Justice Musrat Hilali questioned the implications of a judge’s resignation mid-proceedings. In response, Judicial Assistant Akram Sheikh underscored the council’s independence from such resignations, citing the need for uninterrupted due process.

Meanwhile, Justice Hilali pointed out a similar scenario in India, where a judge’s retirement during an inquiry did not derail proceedings. Justice Irfan Saadat also questioned whether the absence of a notice from the council would terminate a reference against a judge.

Justice Jamal Khan Mandukhel stressed that addressing complaints against judges is not solely the responsibility of the council chairman but of the entire council, revealing a backlog of over 100 complaints awaiting resolution.

The top court in Afia Sheharbano Zia’s case held that the judges who retire or resign do not fall within the ambit of Article 209 of the Constitution that determines misconduct of the superior court judges.

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