'Greed', 'Impropriety' And Violating Code Of Conduct: Reasons SJC Found Justice (retd) Naqvi Guilty

Detailed opinion of the Supreme Judicial Council, which found Justice Mazahir Ali Akbar Naqvi guilty of violating the code of conduct for judges, says his actions damaged the reputation of the judiciary, removes the title of judge

'Greed', 'Impropriety' And Violating Code Of Conduct: Reasons SJC Found Justice (retd) Naqvi Guilty

The Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) has held that Justice (retired) Mazahir Ali Akbar Naqvi violated his oath of office by violating several provisions of the Code of Conduct, including accepting substantial, unexplained gifts, as five of the ten allegations against him were established.

In the 32-page historic judgement penned by SJC Chairman, Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa, an opinion was offered on nine allegations which had been levelled against Justice Naqvi. 

"Justice Naqvi cannot be said to be untouched by greed, and so violated Article-II of the Code of Conduct. It also cannot be stated that he was above reproach, and so had violated Article-III of the Code of Conduct," the SJC held. 

The SJC opined that Justice (retd) Naqvi's conduct in his official and private affairs was also not free from impropriety expected of a judge, and to such an extent, he had also violated Article-III of the Code of Conduct. 

"It is clear that Justice Naqvi's actions were swayed by consideration of personal advantage, and so violated Article-IV of the Code of Conduct." 

The SJC held that Justice (retd) Naqvi violated Article-VI of the Code of Conduct as he was involved in, to his personal advantage, the suit filed by Chaudhry Muhammad Shahbaz and had knowingly deprived minors of their valuable property.

"By receiving substantial unexplained gifts, Justice Naqvi violated Article-VI of the Code of Conduct; the gifts included receiving Rs50 million, his sons receiving two commercial plots and two residential plots at a nominal price, and his daughter receiving UK pounds £5,000," the SJC's opinion stated.

Therefore, the SJC concluded that Justice (retd) Naqvi is guilty of misconduct and should have been removed from the office of a judge.

The SJC further observed that the number of misconduct committed by Justice (retd) Naqvi damaged the judiciary's reputation. 

"When the SJC commenced hearing of the complaints, and throughout, we referred to Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi as Justice Naqvi; however, as he should have been removed, for having committed serious misconduct, the honorific 'Justice' or 'Judge' should not henceforth be used with Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi's name."

Cases proven against Naqvi

The SJC's opinion held that five of the ten allegations against Naqvi have been established.

The allegations included Naqvi's acquisition of a property at Saint Johns Park in Lahore Cantonment measuring 1,983.77 square yards from Chaudhry Muhammad Shahbaz and his son Muhammad Hassan Shahbaz on June 25, 2022, through a registered sale deed showing the sale consideration to be Rs106.842 million even though its market price was around Rs500 million.

The SJC said it was established that Justice Naqvi did not have sufficient income tax paid/declared money to justify the purchase of the property (i.e., he did not demonstrate income sources to match his purchase) and that he had to thrice revise his income tax/wealth statement to justify that he had the money to buy the property.

The property was owned by Dr Bisma Warsi. She died in 2020, leaving behind her husband, Ch Muhammad Shahbaz and three minor sons, Muhammad Hassan Shahbaz, Hussain Shahbaz Warsi and Ali Hamza Shahbaz Warsi.

Muhammad Hassan Shahbaz was born on June 3, 2004, Hussain Shahbaz Warsi on March 25, 2007, and Ali Hamza Shahbaz Warsi on August 19, 2008. 

Ch. Muhammad Shahbaz and Muhammad Hassan sold the property, depriving two legal heirs, Hussain Shahbaz Warsi and Ali Hamza Warsi. 

Naqvi, a judge of the Lahore High Court (LHC), heard a writ petition regarding the property and passed an order on December 17, 2012.

The SJC found that Naqvi misused his office and facilitated filing a suit for a declaration by and through Ch. Muhammad Shahbaz, in which only one son of the late Dr. Bisma Warsi, Muhammad Hassan Shahbaz Warsi, who was a minor, was arrayed as plaintiff without disclosing the other two legal heirs of Dr Bisma Warsi.

A suit had been filed against the public at large seeking a declaration that the plaintiffs were Dr Bisma Warsi's only legal heirs. The suit, filed on February 12, 2021, was decreed with' extraordinary speed' on March 31, 2021.

Based on the decree passed in the said suit, Naqvi exercised his influence with the Military Estate Office and Lahore Cantonment to get the property decreed into the plaintiffs' names, which was done on June 24, 2022.

The very next day, June 25, 2022, Naqvi bought the property. On June 23, 2022, Naqvi purchased a non-judicial stamp paper of Rs1.069,420 million on the sale deed when the property was not in the name of the said sellers.

The facts taken together confirmed that Naqvi exercised extraordinary influence over the court and government officers by misusing his office and deprived two legal heirs of their rights.

Naqvi also bought Plot No. 144, in Block E-1, situated in Gulberg-3, Lahore, measuring 2 kanals and 4 marlas, for a declared price of Rs60 million. However, since he did not have income tax paid/declared money to correspond to this purchase, he showed that he had sold Plot No. 375, Phase-2, DHA, Gujranwala Cantonment, for Rs60 million, even though he had bought it for Rs4.7 million.'

A commercial plot, measuring 100 square yards, and a residential plot, measuring 500 square yards, were given to Naqvi's son, Syed Tasadduq Murtaza Naqvi, respectively, in Lahore Smart City and Capital Smart City, and another commercial plot, measuring 100 square yards and residential plot, measuring 500 square yards, was given to his other son Syed Tasadduq Mustafa Naqvi, at heavily discounted prices by the society's owner, Zahid Rafique, for the reason that Naqvi facilitated his business affairs by misusing his office and by granting undue favours to him.

Three plots measuring a kanal each, including Plot No. 222, Block-B, Park Road, Federal Government Employees Housing Foundation (FGEHF), Islamabad, Plot No. 357, Street No. 9, Block-A, Park Road, FGEHF, Islamabad, and Plot No. 249, Street No. 1¹, G-17/1, Supreme Court Employees Cooperative Housing Society, Islamabad, were bought by Naqvi illegally and without having sufficient income tax paid/declared money.'

Regarding the 100 Saint John's Park property, the SJC observed that Muhammad Safdar Khan and Zahid Rafique had tried their level best to help Naqvi justify the price for the property and the payment of Rs50 million made by Lahore Smart City (Pvt.) Ltd. to acquire it.

"But they utterly failed to state, let alone justify, why a registered company would settle its liability of a substantial amount (Rs50 million), which it allegedly owed to Muhammad Safdar Khan, by not simply paying him the amount," the SJC said. 

"And, for a long-standing businessman, which Zahid Rafique claimed he was, and for a well-established company, this is not only inexplicable but it is also contrary to rudimentary account keeping and would not be legally compliant." 

"We, therefore, place no credence on the testimonies of Muhammad Safdar Khan and Zahid Rafique. On his part, Justice Naqvi offered no justifiable reason in his written reply for doing so and shied away from testifying." 

"In his reply, Justice Naqvi did not disclose why a company had paid a substantial amount - Rs50 million – to buy 100 Saint John's Park. We are therefore left to conclude that Zahid Rafique, through his company Lahore Smart City (Pvt.) Ltd., had paid a considerable portion of the sale consideration of 100 Saint John's Park," the SJC opined. 

"A Judge accepting such largesse from a property developer, who claimed that he hardly knew Justice Naqvi, raises very serious questions of propriety. Since no viable explanation for paying the said Rs50 million was forthcoming, we are left to assume that such incomprehensible generosity to a judge was with the expectation that it would be handsomely recompensed."

While concluding its opinion, the SJC also commended the Attorney General for Pakistan, Mansoor Usman, bar councils and Advocate Mian Dawood, the primary complainant against Naqvi, for their assistance in the matter of upholding the rule of law and the principle of accountability. 

The writer is an Islamabad based journalist working with The Friday Times. He tweets @SabihUlHussnain