Accountability of Judges

CHIEF Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar on Friday remarked that the Supreme Judicial Council is very active now and the process of accountability has begun saying all the judges will be held accountable now.
Indeed there is a mechanism for the appointment and removal of judges but certain segments keep pointing fingers on the lack of accountability of the judges. However, in recent times, as also pointed out by the Chief Justice, the Supreme Judicial Council has really become active and delivering verdicts against the judges. Just the other day, President Arif Alvi removed Islamabad High Court (IHC) judge Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui in the light of a recommendation by the Supreme Judicial Council whilst it dismissed the complaints against the IHC chief justice. Undoubtedly the process of accountability started by the CJP will have overall positive impact in realizing the long cherished dream of dispensing justice to the masses without any delay. The CJP himself admits that the masses yearn for justice and complains about the non-performance of the courts. Certainly those who are not fulfilling their duties entrusted to them in an honest manner must be made answerable. Judicial accountability is a part and parcel of judicial independence, since a judge whose conduct and decisions are influenced by extra-legal elements cannot be independent under international standards, including the UN Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary; therefore, the independence and accountability of the judiciary are inextricably linked. Currently the procedures of the Supreme Judicial Council are completely secret, and its Procedure of Inquiry, 2005, stipulates that, proceedings of the Council shall be conducted in camera and shall not be open to public. In our view, proceedings of the Council should be made bit more open. Sharing information such as the number of cases being considered by the SJC without naming individual judges and the time taken by the Council to reach a decision on the complaints clearly do not risk damaging the reputation of the individual judges or the judiciary as a whole. Effective procedures for accountability indeed will help the CJP’s judicial accountability agenda to be meaningful in the truest sense.

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