Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa emphasized on Wednesday that any encroachment on the judiciary’s independence would face staunch opposition, hinting at the possibility of convening a full court to address allegations of interference in judicial affairs.

The Supreme Court convened to examine allegations put forth by six Islamabad High Court (IHC) judges concerning interference by the country’s security apparatus in judicial matters. The seven-member bench, led by CJP Isa and including justices Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, Yahya Afridi, Jamal Khan Mandokhail, Athar Minallah, Musarrat Hilali, and Naeem Akhtar Afghan, presided over the hearing, which was streamed live on the SC’s website and YouTube channel.

Last week, the revelation of a startling letter from six IHC judges to the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) outlined attempts to pressure judges through the abduction, torture of their relatives, and secret surveillance within their homes.

Responding promptly to these grave accusations, CJP Isa convened a full court meeting of SC judges. Following a meeting with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, an inquiry commission was established, subsequently approved by the federal cabinet.

Despite calls for a probe into the matter, lawyers and civil society members urged the top court to take jurisdiction under Article 184(3) of the Constitution, emphasizing the issue’s relevance to public interest and fundamental rights.

Former CJP Tassaduq Hussain Jillani, initially appointed to lead the inquiry commission, recused himself, advocating for institutional resolution. Concurrently, the Supreme Court invoked suo motu jurisdiction, forming a seven-member bench to hear the case.

AITZAZ AHSAN PETITION

Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan and the Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA) filed petitions to join the proceedings, highlighting the gravity of the case.

During the latest hearing, Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Usman Awan, accompanied by Hamid Khan representing ex-premier Imran Khan, and Ahmed Hussain appearing as Aitzaz’s lawyer, presented themselves before the SC. Additionally, SC Bar Association (SCBA) President Shahzad Shaukat participated.

The hearing was adjourned till April 29, with CJP Isa indicating the possibility of convening a full court to further discuss the matter, reaffirming the judiciary’s commitment to its independence.

HEARING

In a recent hearing, Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa made resolute remarks, affirming the judiciary’s independence amidst allegations of interference. Here are the key takeaways from the session:

  • Commitment to Fairness: CJP Isa reiterated that any assault on the judiciary’s autonomy would not be tolerated, emphasizing that decisions are now made by committee consensus, not by individual will.
  • Judicial Scrutiny: The Supreme Court addressed allegations raised by six Islamabad High Court judges regarding interference by the country’s security apparatus in judicial matters, demonstrating a commitment to investigating these claims thoroughly.
  • Media Sensationalism: CJP Isa criticized the premature media coverage of pending petitions, highlighting the need for proper legal procedure before cases are reported.
  • Suo Motu Proceedings: The top judge expressed displeasure at lawyers advocating for suo motu notices, suggesting they abstain from legal practice if they prioritize such actions.
  • Administrative Meetings: CJP Isa clarified his meeting with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, asserting it was an official administrative discussion, not a personal or private one.
  • Inquiry Commission Formation: Discussions around the formation of an inquiry commission underscored the judiciary’s commitment to transparency and accountability, with emphasis on judicial proceedings adhering to constitutional frameworks.
  • Judicial Authority: The CJP reaffirmed the Supreme Court’s limited authority to form inquiry commissions, stressing the government’s responsibility in this matter as per the Constitution.
  • Calls for Accountability: Both the judiciary and the government emphasized the importance of accountability and transparency in addressing allegations of interference and maintaining the integrity of the judicial system.
  • Future Proceedings: The hearing concluded with plans for further discussions and hearings, underscoring the seriousness with which the judiciary approaches these allegations.

THE LETTER

The letter dated March 25, penned by six Islamabad High Court (IHC) justices, shed light on alarming instances of alleged interference and intimidation aimed at influencing judicial proceedings. Here’s a breakdown of the key revelations outlined in the letter:

  1. Pressure on Judicial Proceedings: The letter highlighted seven instances of alleged interference aimed at influencing the outcomes of cases of interest. Notably, pressure was exerted on judges hearing a case concerning the disqualification of PTI leader Imran Khan. Two out of three judges were reportedly pressured by operatives of the ISI through friends and relatives, causing significant stress to the judges involved.
  2. Physical Intimidation and Surveillance: The letter detailed incidents of physical intimidation, including the abduction of an IHC judge’s brother-in-law by armed men claiming to be ISI operatives. Additionally, instances of surveillance were mentioned, with spy cameras discovered in an IHC judge’s official residence, capturing private moments of the judge and their family.
  3. Lack of Accountability: Despite the gravity of the allegations, the letter pointed out a lack of accountability regarding the installation of surveillance equipment and the intimidation of judges. Efforts to seek accountability, such as reporting incidents to the IHC chief justice, were reportedly met with limited action.
  4. Call for Judicial Convention: In response to the pervasive interference by intelligence officials, the judges called for a judicial convention to address the issue comprehensively. They emphasized the need for a collective response to safeguard judicial independence and counter intimidation tactics effectively.
  5. Inadequacy of Existing Mechanisms: The letter highlighted gaps in the existing framework, noting that the SJC’s code of conduct for judges did not adequately address incidents of intimidation and interference by intelligence operatives. The judges urged for a reevaluation of existing protocols to ensure a robust response to such threats to judicial independence.

 

Overall, the letter underscored the urgent need for collective action to address the systemic challenges posed by interference and intimidation targeting the judiciary. It called for a concerted effort to uphold the principles of judicial independence and accountability in the face of mounting pressures.

 

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