The Supreme Court of Pakistan has rejected the objections of the previous Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) government to a five-member bench led by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial hearing petitions against the audio leaks commission.
In a short verdict announced by Justice Ijazul Ahsan, the apex court bench said that the PDM government’s objections to the judges were tantamount to an “attack” on the judiciary.
The five-member bench was formed in May 2023 to hear petitions challenging the government’s decision to form a commission led by Justice Qazi Faez Isa to investigate the audio leaks. The leaks implicated several politicians and judges, including Justice Isa.
The PDM government had filed a civil miscellaneous application (CMA) in the apex court requesting that Chief Justice Bandial, Justice Ahsan, and Justice Munib Akhtar recuse themselves from the bench. However, the court has rejected these objections and the hearing of the petitions will continue.
The decision of the Supreme Court is a victory for the independence of the judiciary and a setback for the PDM government. It sends a strong message that the judiciary will not be intimidated by political pressure.
Audio Leaks Commission:
A high-powered Audio leaks commission was formed on May 20, 2023, to investigate the audio leaks related to the judiciary. The commission was composed of Justice Qazi Faez Isa, Justice Naeem Akhtar Afghan, and Justice Aamer Farooq.
The commission was tasked to complete the inquiry within 30 days. It was also tasked to probe into the veracity of the alleged call between former Punjab chief minister Chaudhry Parvez Elahi and a sitting top court judge, as well as another call between CM Elahi and a Supreme Court lawyer over the constitution of an apex court bench.
However, the formation of the commission was challenged by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan and Supreme Court lawyer Naeem Bukhari. They argued that the government did not consult Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial before forming the commission and that the terms of reference (TORs) were deliberately omitted.
In light of these petitions, the Supreme Court stayed the proceedings of the commission and suspended the federal government’s notification of the commission’s constitution.
The court is expected to hear the petitions challenging the formation of the commission in the coming weeks.