Home Latest News Supreme Court takes Suo Motu Notice of Letter Penned by IHC Judges

Supreme Court takes Suo Motu Notice of Letter Penned by IHC Judges

Seven-member larger bench to hear case after over 300 lawyers had signed open letter calling for apex court to examine matter

by Staff Report

File photo. Farooq Naeem—AFP

The Supreme Court on Monday took suo motu notice of a letter penned by six judges of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) alleging ‘interference’ by intelligence agencies in judicial matters.

A seven-member larger bench led by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa would commence hearing the case from Wednesday (April 3). Apart from the CJP, the bench comprises Justices Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, Yahya Afridi, Athar Minallah, Mussarat Hilali, Jamal Khan Mandokhail and Naeem Akhtar Afghan.

Last week, the CJP had met Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and sought the formation of an inquiry commission to probe the matter. Subsequently, the government had appointed Justice (retd.) Tassaduq Jillani to head the one-member commission to probe the judges’ allegations, as well as determine whether the judges were liable for misconduct. The commission was tasked with completing its investigation within 60 days and submitting a report to the government.

However, the inquiry commission had come under controversy before it could even start its work, as over 300 lawyers, including Jillani’s son, issued an open letter rejecting the commission and urging the apex court to take suo motu notice of the allegations of interference in the judiciary by the intelligence apparatus under Article 184(3) of the Constitution. Also on Monday, the retired judge recused himself from heading the inquiry commission, putting to question the status of the commission going forward.

In his recusal, Justice (retd.) Jillani noted that the “terms of the reference for inquiry” were not relevant to the subject asked to probe by the six IHC judges in their letter. He also noted that the judges had requested for an “institutional consultation” on the issue.

In the letter, the lawyers had claimed a government-led commission’s inquiry could not be considered independent or transparent, as it would be required to probe and penalize its own officials, a glaring conflict of interest. Stressing the legal fraternity supported the principles of rule of law, independence of judiciary and access to justice, the letter endorsed 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 demanding appropriate action to uphold these principles.

“We unequivocally condemn the events narrated in paragraph 6 of the IHC Letter and express our deep concern with respect thereto,” read the letter. “Considering that this narration has been endorsed by six judges of a constitutional court, the same cannot be disregarded,” it said, describing the allegations as “criminal intimidation, torture, and illegal surveillance” by “intelligence agencies who report to the executive.”

The letter further lamented that when judges were “systematically coerced and intimidated, the entire system of justice becomes a sham and loses its credibility.” It also called on the Pakistan Bar Council as well as all bar associations to convene a convention of lawyers to decide on a collective course of action to strengthen the independence of the judiciary.

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