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CJP takes suo motu notice of IHC judges letter about ‘meddling’ in judicial matters

By News Desk

April 1, 2024 02:12 PM


CJP takes suo motu notice of IHC judges letter about ‘meddling’ in judicial matters

CJP Qazi Faez Isa

Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Justice Qazi Faez Isa has taken suo motu notice regarding the letter written by six Islamabad High Court (IHC) judges complaining of “meddling” by intelligence agencies in judicial matters, reported 24NewsHD TV channel.

The CJP took the action on Monday, a day after over 300 lawyers had urged the Supreme Court to take notice of allegations of interference in the judiciary by the intelligence apparatus under Article 184(3) of the Constitution, adding any government-led commission “would be bereft of necessary independence and powers” to probe the claims.

Justice Isa constituted a seven-judge larger bench on the issue of judges’ letter. The bench will conduct first hearing on Wednesday.

The other six members of the larger bench are Justice Mansoor Ali Shah, Justice Yahya Afridi, Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel, Justice Athar Minallah, Justice Musarrat Hilali and Justice Naeem Akhtar Afghan.

The lawyers said that all those who had signed had issued the statement to “express our unwavering commitment and wholehearted support to the principles of rule of law, independence of judiciary and access to justice” in light of the allegations made by the IHC judges.

“We endorse the resolutions passed by the Islamabad High Court Bar Association, the Islamabad Bar Association, the Sindh High Court Bar Association, the Pakistan Bar Council, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Bar Council and the Balochistan Bar Council to the extent that they resolve to uphold the principle of independence of judiciary, express solidarity with the six judges of the IHC, commend their courageous action and demand appropriate action to uphold such principles,” the statement said and added this was not the first time that such allegations had been raised.

Justice (retd) Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui had raised “similar allegations and was consequently, unceremoniously removed from office, without following due process”, the lawyers said.

Referring to the apex court’s recent verdict on the murder trial of former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the statement said that it was an “indictment of the historic role played by the judiciary in Pakistan and it is commendable to the extent of the sober acknowledgement therein that public perception of judicial independence has been prejudiced”.

It further said that the SC’s verdict in Shaukat Aziz’s case vindicated the former judge to the extent of his removal. “However, neither decision is able to provide justice to the victims. Indeed, acknowledgement of past mistakes is a laudable first step, however it is now high time to move from acknowledgements to concrete measures for course correction in real-time. A failure to act urgently and transparently in the matter may irreparably prejudice the public confidence in the independence of judiciary which is the very fabric which holds the entire constitutional structure together,” the statement said, adding “When judges, the last guardians standing between state excesses and the fundamental rights of citizens, are systematically coerced and intimidated, the entire system of justice becomes a sham and loses its credibility. Lawyers seeking justice for litigants before the courts do so with the expectation that they will be heard by neutral, impartial and unbiased arbiters seeking to dispense justice. If judges are not free to dispense justice without fear, then the entire legal system, including lawyers, cease to hold any value,” it said.

The statement urged the Pakistan Bar Council and all the bar associations to call a convention of lawyers on an “urgent basis” to decide on a collective course of action to strengthen the independence of the judiciary.

The statement also called on the apex court to take cognisance of the matter in its jurisdiction under Article 184(3) of the Constitution “as this issue eminently relates to public interest and to the enforcement of fundamental rights”.

The statement said that the matter should be dealt with transparently and in the public eye as “it is the public confidence in the independence of judiciary which needs to be restored”.

“In the interests of transparency and to ensure that the matter may not be politicised, we call upon the Supreme Court of Pakistan to constitute a bench comprising of all available judges to hear the matter and for the proceedings to be telecast live for public consumption,” it said.

The statement further said that such proceedings should not be limited in scope and should inquire into the allegations levelled in the IHC letter as well as those levelled by Siddiqui.

The proceedings should also “affix responsibility for any breach by the executive officials (if proven) and hold those responsible to account to secure the independence of the judiciary and to restore public confidence in the institution of judiciary”.

The statement further said that the press release issued by the SC after Wednesday’s full court meeting stated that a consensus was developed that the CJP hold a meeting with the premier, but did not state that a consensus had been developed on constituting an inquiry commission. “We express our deep dissatisfaction and dismay with this course of action which in itself is the very antithesis of the principle of independence of judiciary,” it said.

The statement highlighted that the inquiry commission was required to conduct the probe and perform its functions in accordance with the TORs notified by the federal government. Further, the timeframe of the inquiry and whether or not the report would be made public was also within the control of the government. “In view of such powers conferred upon the federal government, the inquiry commission would be bereft of necessary independence and powers to conduct a transparent, impartial and meaningful inquiry to restore the public confidence in the independence of judiciary,” it said.

“Accordingly, any inquiry into the matter undertaken under the purview of the federal government violates the very principles that the inquiry seeks to protect and uphold. We note that any such inquiry commission and its proceedings would be entirely wanting in credibility,” it said. The statement urged the SJC to “lay down guidelines” and for the SC, in coordination with all the high courts, to set up “transparent institutional mechanisms so that any attempt at undermining the independence of judiciary may be reported and dealt with effectively and transparently, so that no one may cast any aspersions on the independence of the judiciary in the future”.

On Saturday last, the federal cabinet had approved the constitution of an inquiry commission headed by ex-chief justice of Pakistan Tassaduq Hussain Jillani to probe allegations of inte­rference by intelligence agencies in judicial affairs, the body has been authorised to “recommend act­ion” against anyone from the intelligence agency, department, or government if found guilty.

On March 25, six Islam­abad High Court judges — out of a total strength of eight — wrote a letter to the Supreme Jud­icial Council (SJC) members regarding attempts to pressurise judges through abduction and torture of their relatives as well as secret surveillance.

The letter was signed by judges Mohsin Akhtar Kayani, Tariq Mehmood Jahangiri, Babar Sattar, Sardar Ejaz Ishaq Khan, Arbab Muhammad Tahir and Saman Rafat Imtiaz and addressed to the CJP and Justice Mansoor Ali Shah and Justice Munib Akhtar as well as the top judges of the Peshawar High Court and the IHC.

 

Reporter Amanat Gishkori


News Desk


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