Home Latest News CJP Hints at Full Court for Suo Motu of IHC Judges’ Letter

CJP Hints at Full Court for Suo Motu of IHC Judges’ Letter

Hearings to resume on April 29, with CJP indicating matter could be heard on daily basis to ensure its resolution

by Staff Report

File photo. Farooq Naeem—AFP

Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa on Wednesday emphasized that “any attack” on the judiciary’s independence would not be tolerated, while indicating a full court bench may be formed to continue hearing a suo motu case regarding allegations of interference in judicial affairs.

Heading a seven-member bench of the apex court hearing a case pertaining to allegations forwarded by six judges of the Islamabad High Court (IHC), who alleged in a letter to the Supreme Judicial Council that spy agencies were “interfering” in their affairs, he said the hearing would resume on April 29, when could be heard on a daily basis.

Apart from the CJP, the bench comprises Justices Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, Yahya Afridi, Jamal Khan Mandokhail, Athar Minallah, Musarrat Hilali and Naeem Akhtar Afghan. The suo motu notice was taken on a letter penned by six IHC judges—Mohsin Akhtar Kayani, Tariq Mehmood Jahangiri, Babar Sattar, Sardar Ejaz Ishaq Khan, Arbab Muhammad Tahir and Saman Rafat Imtiaz—in which they alleged attempts to pressure judicial decisions.

Initially, the matter was to be probed by an inquiry commission led by Justice (retd.) Tassaduq Jillani, but he recused himself in a letter to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif after backlash from the legal fraternity. Subsequently, the apex court announced it was taking suo motu notice of the letter.

In today’s hearing, which was broadcast live on YouTube, PTI founder Imran Khan’s counsel Hamid Khan sought to be made respondent to the case. “Gone are the days when it was the chief justice’s will,” remarked the CJP, noting the court had yet to receive Hamid’s petition and the committee would decide on the matter once it was filed.

The CJP also lamented 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?” he questioned and vowed to never submit to anyone’s pressure. He also criticized lawyers seeking a suo motu notice, observing such lawyers should “leave their practice.”

Attorney General for Pakistan Mansoor Usman Awan then read out the press release issued by the top court after a meeting between the CJP and P.M. Sharif on the IHC judges’ letter. The CJP observed the meeting was an “official administrative” one, adding the full court meeting that preceded it served no judicial function.

The AGP then highlighted inappropriate comments on media and social media about the inquiry commission formed by the federal government. He also regretted that Jillani, too, had recused himself after being criticized for accepting his role on the commission. “If there is any kind of attack on the judiciary’s independence, I would be at the frontline,” remarked the CJP, adding none of the judges on the bench would ever accept interference. “If someone has another agenda to do so and so, then they may become the Supreme Court Bar president or the chief justice and enact his will. We will not tolerate pressure of this kind,” he added.

The AGP then noted the commission was formed with the CJP’s consent, adding media had misrepresented it by claiming it was made of the federal government’s own accord. “Who can serve in such an environment?” questioned the CJP. “Such allegations were levelled that we were ashamed to have nominated him,” he said, referring to Jillani’s recusal, adding the former judge stepped aside after the backlash seen on social media.

Awan then read out Jillani’s recusal letter and recalled that the CJP had suggested either Jillani or Justice (retd.) Nasirul Mulk to head the commission. “The impression that the SC has given its powers to the government or the commission is completely wrong,” remarked the CJP, noting the Constitution does not permit the apex court to form its own inquiry commission.

“Every institution should remain within its limits,” the top judge asserted, noting that the Supreme Court might have “gone beyond its limits” in the past, but it would not do so now.

“The federal government is not ready to compromise on the judiciary independence,” said the AGP. “From here, verdicts were given, JITs were formed [and] monitoring judges appointed against the law. What happened between 2017 and 2021 is in front of everyone,” he said and also recalled the “death threat” sent to Justice Isa in 2020.

“Talking about this is very important,” argued Awan. “The history should be kept before everyone. Mrs Sarina Isa went to get an FIR registered but it was not. The then-federal government referred the matter to the FIA. Sarina Isa recorded a statement about Mirza Shahzad Akbar and Lt. Gen. (retd.) Faiz Hameed [but] the federal government at the time took no action,” he recalled, noting two CJPs retired during the period while CJP Isa took up the matter within 24 hours.

“We have the prime minister’s full support on this matter,” the AGP added.

“Pressure on the judges can also come from fellow judges, their family members, children and friends. These days, there’s a new epidemic of social media and there is pressure from the media as well,” CJP Isa noted.

Justice Athar Minallah, meanwhile, observed that whatever was happening was “visible to everyone” and there was no point in pretending there was no interference. Justice Mansoor Ali Shah, similarly, remarked the court must put an end to the longstanding practice of interference once and for all and questioned how it could do so.

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