Table of Contents
Overview of Article 209 of the Constitution of Pakistan
The Constitution of Pakistan, promulgated in 1973, serves as the cornerstone legal document for its citizens, outlining governance structure and protecting rights. One key provision within its intricate framework is Article 209 which creates the Supreme Judicial Council tasked with upholding integrity and accountability of judiciary institutions.
Article 209 States
209. Supreme Judicial Council
- There shall be a Supreme Judicial Council of Pakistan, in this Chapter referred to as the Council.
- The Council shall consist of,
- the Chief Justice of Pakistan;
- the two next most senior Judges of the Supreme Court; and
- the two most senior Chief Justices of High Courts.
Explanation:– For the purpose of this clause, the inter se seniority of the Chief Justices of the High Courts shall be determined with reference to their dates of appointment as Chief Justice otherwise than as acting Chief Justice, and in case the dates of such appointment are the same, with reference to their dates of appointment as Judges of any of the High Courts.
- If at any time the Council is inquiring into the capacity or conduct of a Judge who is a member of the Council, or a member of the Council is absent or is unable to act due to illness or any other cause, then
- if such member is a Judge of the Supreme Court, the Judge of the Supreme Court who is next in seniority below the Judges referred to in paragraph (b) of clause (2), and
- if such member is the Chief Justice of a High Court; the Chief Justice of another High Court who is next in seniority amongst the Chief Justices of the remaining High Courts, shall act as a member of the Council in his place.
- If, upon any matter inquired into by the Council, there is a difference of opinion amongst its members, the opinion of the majority shall prevail, and the report of the Council to the President shall be expressed in terms of the view of the majority.
- If, on information from any source, the Council or the President is of the opinion that a Judge of the Supreme Court or of a High Court-
- may be incapable of property performing the duties of his office by reason of physical or mental incapacity; or
- may have been guilty of misconduct,
the President shall direct the Council to, or the Council may, on its own motion, inquire into the matter.
- If, after inquiring into the matter, the Council reports to the President that it is of the opinion,
- that the Judge is incapable of performing the duties of his office or has been guilty of misconduct, and
- that he should be removed from office, the President may remove the Judge from office.
- A Judge of the Supreme Court or of a High Court shall not be removed from office except as provided by this Article.
- The Council shall issue a code of conduct to be observed by Judges of the Supreme Court and of the High Courts.
Key Points of Article 209 of the Constitution of Pakistan
- Composition of the Council: The Council comprises the Chief Justice of Pakistan, the two next most senior Judges of the Supreme Court, and the two most senior Chief Justices of High Courts. The determination of seniority involves specific criteria, ensuring a structured hierarchy within the Council.
- Substitution Mechanism: In situations where a Council member is the subject of an inquiry or is absent, the Constitution provides a clear mechanism for substitution. This includes the next in seniority Judge of the Supreme Court or Chief Justice of another High Court, depending on the specific scenario.
- Decision-Making Dynamics: The Council operates on the principle of majority rule. If there is a difference of opinion among its members, the opinion of the majority prevails. This ensures decisive actions and a coherent stance when dealing with matters of judicial conduct and capacity.
- Inquiry into Incapacity or Misconduct: The Council has the authority to inquire into the physical or mental incapacity or alleged misconduct of a Judge of the Supreme Court or a High Court. This underscores the commitment to maintaining the highest standards of judicial integrity.
- Removal Process: Following an inquiry, if the Council is of the opinion that a Judge is incapable or guilty of misconduct, and recommends removal, the President may exercise the authority to remove the Judge from office. This process emphasizes accountability while ensuring due process.
- Protection against Arbitrary Removal: Article 209 provides a safeguard against arbitrary removal of Judges by explicitly outlining that Supreme and High Court Judges can only be removed according to established constitutional procedures outlined within this Article. It re-enforces the importance of following established procedures.
- Code of Conduct: In addition to its investigative and adjudicative functions, the Council is tasked with issuing a code of conduct to be observed by Judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts. This adds an extra layer of ethical guidance, reinforcing the commitment to maintaining the highest standards of judicial behavior.
Crux of Article 209 of the Constitution of Pakistan
At its core, Article 209 represents a commitment to judicial independence, accountability and the rule of law. By creating the Supreme Judicial Council with clear composition and specific powers, Article 209 ensures that judges’ conduct and capacities can be closely scrutinized thereby upholding principles of justice and fairness.
The provision not only outlines the procedural aspects of inquiries and removal but also underscores the significance of preserving the dignity and independence of the judiciary. Article 209, in essence, symbolizes the constitutional framework’s resilience in upholding the sanctity of the judiciary as a cornerstone of the democratic governance structure in Pakistan.
Conclusion: Article 209 of the Constitution of Pakistan
In conclusion, Article 209 stands as a testament to the meticulous constitutional design of Pakistan. By establishing the Supreme Judicial Council and articulating its powers and functions, the framers of the 1973 Constitution ensured a robust system for holding judges accountable while protecting their independence.
As Pakistan negotiates its ever-evolving legal landscape, Article 209 serves as an anchor that guides it toward a judiciary that is both competent and fair but also accountable to its constituents. It encapsulates the constitutional spirit enshrining judicial roles as protectors of justice, enforcers of law, and contributors to democratic fabric of society.