Govt weights ex-judges for judicial meddling probe

In Local
March 30, 2024



ISLAMABAD:

The federal government is exploring options among retired judges to lead a one-man inquiry commission tasked with investigating the claims made by six judges of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) regarding the interference of the country’s intelligence apparatus in judicial affairs.

According to a senior government official speaking to The Express Tribune, the government has shortlisted former chief justices Nasirul Mulk, and Tassaduq Hussain Jillani, as well as retired justices Maqbool Baqar, Manzoor Ahmed Malik, and Mushir Alam for consideration.

The next step involves gauging their availability to head the inquiry commission.

The official stated that the federal cabinet is set to greenlight the formation of the inquiry commission on Saturday (today). The notification will promptly follow thereafter. The cabinet is scheduled to convene at 12 pm.

The official further revealed that during a meeting with Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa, discussions were held regarding the Terms of Reference (TORs) for the commission.

He also revealed that the proposal regarding the formation of the inquiry commission came from the superior judiciary.

Furthermore, it was disclosed that these six judges have eased the government’s task, and now the law officers will seek their recusal in case they preside over cases related to Imran Khan and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).

“We are very surprised about the timing of the issuance of this letter as they pointed out the incidents which happened during the tenure of ex-CJP Umar Ata Bandial. These judges should have raised this issue during the caretaker government. Now, when the new government has formed and Imran Khan cases are being filed in IHC, they decided to write this letter,” the senior government official added.

‘Preemptive strike’

The federal government seems to be taking the issuance of the letter by the six IHC judges in stride.

Many government officials believe that the majority of SC judges are losing sleep over the issuance of this letter compared to the executive functionaries. They view the letter as a preemptive strike before the commencement of misconduct proceedings against one IHC judge.

However, a senior lawyer contends that following the issuance of the letter, the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) would be unable to take action against these judges. The government ought to bear in mind that there is a distinction between Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi and these six judges, who enjoy broad support from various segments of society.

Meanwhile, it has been gathered that only three judges vehemently objected to the formation of the inquiry commission, while the majority of judges are aligned with CJP Isa.

While the superior bars led by the Independent Group support the establishment of the inquiry commission, various provincial bars such as the Lahore High Court Bar Association, Islamabad High Court Bar Association, and Balochistan High Court Bar Association are expressing serious apprehension regarding the constitution of the inquiry commission.

“We reject inquiry commission. We will demand a commission comprising five senior most judges. If this commission was not formed then a constitutional petition will be filed in this matter,” Munir Kakar, who is the candidate for the next presidential election of the Supreme Court Bar Association, said. He belongs to the Professional Lawyers Group.

‘Emperor is naked’

Former additional attorney general Tariq Mahmood Khokhar contended that the actions of six judges “have shouted the emperor is naked’.

However, the concern extends beyond these six judges to encompass all 126 judges across the nation’s five high courts, he added.

“We do not need a commission of inquiry to determine the obvious: that the State coercion of the judiciary was and remains a constant occurrence. No commission can deny what the entire nation affirms,” he said.

He said a simple acknowledgement of errors, stupidity and contrition accompanied by a credible resolve of future restraint should suffice to defuse the crisis.

“The redressal ought to be effected through judicial processes, from within the superior courts and under existing law.”

Khokhar said that the judiciary is and ought to be the guardian of its independence. Any attempt to act through proxy or outsourcing would constitute an anathema to the very independence of the judiciary, he added.

Meanwhile, different bars have decided to move constitutional petitions in this matter.

Furthermore, Kakar further disclosed that representatives from Balochistan bars will convene a meeting on March 30 to determine the next steps regarding the matter involving the six IHC judges.

The conference will discuss the contentious letter written by the six judges of the Islamabad High Court and the future course of action. All representatives have been requested to attend the meeting.

In a parallel development, six members of the Pakistan Bar Council belonging to the Professional Group have resolved to take the matter of the letter to the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, the federal cabinet has called for a session on Saturday (today) to greenlight the formation of a commission to investigate the allegations made by IHC judges regarding the meddling of intelligence agencies in judicial affairs.

Prime Minister Shehbaz has summoned the federal cabinet meeting. The meeting will take place today at 12 pm.

The issue of the letter from the IHC judges will be discussed in the cabinet meeting. The approval will be sought for the formation of a commission to inquire into the allegations made by the IHC judges.

The federal cabinet meeting will have a five-point agenda. The meeting has been delayed due to the prime minister’s engagements. The cabinet meeting will be held via Zoom, and most ministers will participate in the online session.

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