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Any meddling in judicial matters will not be tolerated, declares CJP

Justice Qazi Isa says there will be no compromise on judiciary’s independence: Laments social media propaganda: Hints at forming full court on the issue: AGP assures SC of govt’s complete support: Justice Mansoor Shah says SC must act now

By News Desk

April 3, 2024 09:15 AM


TV grab

 

The Supreme Court will not tolerate any kind of meddling in the judicial matters and there would also be no compromise on the independence of courts, declared Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa as the Supreme Court took up a suo motu case on a letter penned by six Islamabad High Court (IHC) judges alleging inte­rference by intelligence agencies, reported 24NewsHD TV channel.

CJP Qazi made the remarks during proceedings on Wednesday at the head of the seven-judge larger bench. Other members were Justice Mansoor Ali Shah, Justice Yahya Afridi, Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel, Justice Athar Minallah, Justice Musarrat Hilali, and Justice Naeem Akhtar Afghan.

Justice Qazi Isa made it crystal clear that “attack of any kind” on the judiciary’s independence would not be tolerated. He categorically said that there would be no compromise on the independence of judiciary and that he could not be pressurized.

The chief justice said had he not given importance to the letter, he would not have held a meeting with the IHC judges, and that too in the holy month of Ramadan. “My meeting with the judges lasted for two and a half hours,” he said, adding, “I also had meetings with the representatives of different bar councils of the country irrespective of their political affiliations.”

However, the CJP lamented, the propaganda that some people were indulging in on the social media was unprecedented. “Let me make it clear to you,” CJP Isa said, adding “When there would be an attack on the independence of judiciary, all judges would forget their differences and would stand together as firm as a rock.”

He, however, questioned why the lawyers did not speak when the SC’s full-court meeting was not held for four years.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j0DLlKXi9H4

Attorney General for Pakistan Mansoor Usman Awan appeared before the SC along with Hamid Khan, who was present as ex-premier Imran Khan’s counsel. Ahmed Hussain appeared as Aitzaz Ahsan’s lawyer.

Hamid Khan informed the court that he had requested to be made a respondent in the case. CJP Isa then remarked, “Gone are the days when it was the chief justice’s will. We have constituted a committee to fix cases.”

The CJP noted that the court had not received Hamid’s plea, adding the committee would decide on the matter once the petition is received.

The chief justice said it was “inappropriate” that petitions were reported in the media before they were even filed. “When we talk about pressure being exerted, is this also exerting pressure on us in a way?” the CJP wondered, adding he never gave in to anyone’s pressure.

Justice Isa expressed his displeasure at lawyers calling for a suo motu notice: “The lawyers are saying to take a suo motu, then they should leave their practice.”

Justice Isa said Hamid Khan could not be considered as a “representative of lawyers” as the president of a bar council was already present for that role.

AGP Awan then read out the SC’s press release issued after the meeting between the CJP and PM Shehbaz Sharif on the issue of IHC judges’ letter.

The CJP said that when he informed Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif about the letter, the latter immediately showed his willingness to meet me to discuss the subject.

He was of the view that if lawyers requested the court to take suo motu notice of an incident, they should quit their profession.

Addressing Hamid Khan, he said he did not consider him a representative of the legal fraternity. “Bar’s president is here to represent them,” he added.

Speaking on the occasion, Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Usman Awan assured the chief justice of the government’s complete support. “We are ready to cooperate with the apex court in the case,” he said.

CJP Isa remarked there was a need to do introspection before pointing fingers at others.

The AGP said that false information was disseminated on social media about the one-man commission formed to probe the judges’ letter. “The fact is that all government departments are bound to assist the commission formed by the government,” he added.

He said that former chief justice of Pakistan Tassaduq Hussain Jillani, who had been made head of the commission, was a non-controversial person. “The prime minister met with Jillani and informed him of the constitution of the commission,” the AGP said, adding, “Unfortunately, when the commission was formed, its head was subjected to severe criticism. Truth of the matter is that Jillani was not doing it for money.”

The attorney general said that his head was hung in shame when he went through contents of the social media propaganda targeting the former CJP. “This does not happen in a civilized world.”

That, he went on to say, led to Jillani’s dissociation from the commission who intimated the prime minister about his decision in a letter.

AGP Awan, on the occasion, read out the letter.

The chief justice remarked that it would be wrong to say that the SC had delegated its powers to the government. “Unfortunately, we have stopped following the constitution,” he regretted.

The chief justice said that all state institutions should stay within their limits.

He further said that as per the constitution, it was the federal government, and not the SC, which had the power to form a commission.

The attorney general said that the government too was committed to the independence of judiciary. “The courts have explained what they mean by the independence of judiciary in their verdicts in different cases, including that of Asfand Yar Wali,” he added.  

Then addressing the CJP, AGP Awan went on to say that perhaps he would not like it, but the fact was that whatever had happened in the country between 2017 and 2021, was no secret.

“Death threats were hurled at you, and the police at that time were not ready to register a case,” he said.

CJP Isa asked him to leave that topic and move on.

But the attorney general insisted that he would still recall what had happened during that period. “My lord, your wife, Serena Isa, went to a police station to get the FIR registered, but the police refused to register it,” he said, adding, “The level of cooperation extended to the judiciary by the then government and the present government is for everybody to see.”

The AGP was of the view that if on one hand, the independence of judiciary was in danger, on the other hand, the executive’s dignity was also in jeopardy. “There should be a balance between the two,” he opined.

The CJP said the apex court took the letter penned down by the judges seriously. “The letter can be looked at from several angles,” he said, adding, “I am a member of the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC). And the judges had sought the SJC’s opinion on the matter.”

The chief justice said that in the letter there was a reference to the former judge Justice Shaukat Siddiqui’s case. “Judges can face pressure from different persons. They can face pressure from their own families, friends, legal fraternity and social media. The pressure the judges have talked about in the letter can come from any quarter,” he remarked.

Justice Isa said that the SJC had removed judge Siddiqui from the post. “But later, the Supreme Court ruled that he had not been given the right to defend himself,” he said, adding, “This verdict by the apex court benefits the IHC judges.”

Coming back to the issue under discussion, he went on to say that the judges in their letter had mentioned that their relatives were also harassed. “But nowhere in the letter is there any mention of those who intimidated them,” the chief justice said, adding, “The judges have the power to summon people in the cases of contempt of court. And these judges, too, could have used that power.”

He recalled that the matter of threats to the judges had first surfaced when Umar Ata Bandial was the country’s CJP. “But the ex-CJP neither informed me nor had he held consultations with me,” he said, and added, “But when my secretary told me that the high court judges had come to meet me, I wasted no time and met them.”   

CJP Isa said that although he was not part of the administration, still he listened to the judges. “I and the prime minister had a meeting on the letter,” he said, adding, “What else could a court do? I think there has never been such a swift response by an apex court in the country’s history.”  

He made it clear that he could not summon the prime minister to the court to discuss the issue. “We respect the president, the prime minister and the parliament.”

Justice Mansoor Ali Shah remarked that the SC should take an action on the judges’ letter. “Be it a sessions court judge or a high court judge. His or her independence is necessary,” he said, and added, “If the apex court does not take any action this time, the issue will be hushed up for good.”

Justice Jamal Mandokhel remarked that keeping in view the letter the judiciary’s independence should be defined clearly.

Justice Minallah said no one could deny the fact that there had been instances of political engineering in the country and the complicity of the courts could not be ruled out either. “The letter written by the judges is a proof that this practice is still continuing,” he said, and stressed the need for eliminating the VIP culture.

“How on earth can we ignore basic human rights of the people?” he questioned, and said emphatically that the court could not turn a blind eye to the happenings in Pakistan.   

The chief justice said the reason for not forming a full court bench was that some judges were not available.

He then sought from the AGP and the Supreme Court Bar their submissions in writing.

He informed that there was a possibility that he would stay for one week in Lahore and one week in Karachi. “However, the next hearing of the case could be held early,” CJP Isa said, and announced that he had decided that the bench would hear the case daily.

He also announced that he would decide to form a full court after consultations with his fellow judges. “For the time being, it is sufficient to say that the court is in no mood to compromise on the freedom of judiciary.”

The chief justice said that some of the judges were in Karachi and Lahore until Eidul Fitr. “The next hearing could be held either on April 29 or April 30. However, we will tell the exact date only after consulting with each other,” he said.

It is worth reminding here that around a week ago, the judges had written a letter in which they had pointed out interference by the country’s intelligence agencies in their work, which led to the formation of a one-member commission by the government.

The only member on the bench was former chief justice of Pakistan Tassaduq Hussain Jillani, who later, in a letter to the government, recused himself from the case, prompting the apex court to take suo motu notice.

The six IHC judges who wrote the letter were Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani, Justice Tariq Mehmood Jahangiri, Justice Babar Sattar, Justice Sardar Ejaz Ishaq Khan, Justice Arbab Muhammad Tahir and Justice Saman Rafat Imtiaz.

 image

File photos of six IHC judges: Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani, Justice Tariq Mehmood Jahangiri, Justice Babar Sattar, Justice Sardar Ejaz Ishaq Khan, Justice Arbab Muhmaddad Tahir and Justice Saman Rafat Imtiaz.

 

Reporter: Amanat Gishkori


News Desk


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