SC begins hearing suo motu on IHC judges’ letter

In Local
April 03, 2024

Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa said on Wednesday that an “attack of any kind” on the independence of the judiciary will not be tolerated as the apex court commenced hearing the suo motu on a letter by six Islamabad High Court (IHC) judges alleging interference by the country’s intelligence apparatus in judicial affairs.

The move came after former chief justice of Pakistan Tassaduq Hussain Jillani recused himself from heading a one-man inquiry commission formed by the government to investigate the claims.

A seven-member bench of the apex court, presided by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa and comprising justices Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, Jamal Khan Mandokhail, Athar Minallah, Musarrat Hilali, Yahya Afridi, and Naeem Akhtar Afghan, is hearing the case.

The proceedings are being broadcast on the SC’s website and its YouTube channel.

The situation unfolded after a group of lawyers and civil society members on Sunday urged the top court to initiate suo motu proceedings on the matter, as it rejected the ‘powerless’ one-man commission.

Through a letter, they urged the top court to take “cognisance of the matter in its jurisdiction under Article 184(3) of the Constitution as this issue eminently relates to public interest and to the enforcement of fundamental rights”.

In a startling letter written to the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) members, the IHC judges had accused the country’s intelligence apparatus of pressurizing judges through abduction and torture of their relatives and secret surveillance inside their homes.

The letter, addressed to Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa, Supreme Court Justices Mansoor Ali Shah and Munib Akhtar and chief justices of the IHC and the Peshawar High Court, also questioned if there exists a state police to “intimidate” and coerce judges.

Read SC takes suo motu after Jillani nixes panel

The letter, dated March 25, was signed by Justices Mohsin Akhtar Kayani, Tariq Mehmood Jahangiri, Babar Sattar, Sardar Ejaz Ishaq Khan, Arbab Muhammad Tahir and Saman Rafat Imtiaz of the IHC.

Former CJP recuses himself from commission

Earlier in his letter sent to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif dated April 1, Justice (retd) Jillani said, “Since the letter is addressed to the members of the Supreme Judicial Council and its chairman, the chief justice of Pakistan, it would be violative of judicial propriety for me to inquire into a matter which may fall within the jurisdiction of a constitutional body which is the Supreme Judicial Council or the Supreme Court of Pakistan itself.”

Thanking the premier and the cabinet for reposing confidence in him to head the commission, the retired judge stated the terms of the reference for the inquiry are not “strictly” relevant to the subject under consideration.

Justice (retd) Jillani further added that the request made in the letter is for an “institutional consultation”, with the terms of the mechanism suggested in the letter. He further added that the letter may not strictly fall within the parameters of Article 209 of the Constitution.

“For the afore-referred reasons, I recuse myself to head the commission and proceed with the inquiry.

Under the Terms of Reference (ToR) of the commission formed by the government, the inquiry commission will fully probe the allegations levelled by the IHC judges and decide whether these are true or otherwise.

It will investigate whether any personnel (of intelligence agencies) are directly responsible for interfering in judicial matters.

“The inquiry commission under its findings will recommend action against anyone from the intelligence agency, department, or government if found involved in such issue. It could, if found necessary during the course of its proceedings, probe other related issues as well.”




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