IHC judges’ letter: Justice Yahya Afridi recuses himself from suo motu case

Justice Afridi, who was part of the seven-member bench hearing the case, mentioned his recusal in a note with the written order issued following the first hearing

By News Desk
April 13, 2024
Justice Yahya Afridi. — Supreme Court of Pakistan's Website/File

ISLAMABAD: Justice Yahya Afridi has recused himself from the suo motu case taken up by the Supreme Court in the wake of letter written by Islamabad High Court (IHC) judges citing complaints of interference in judicial affairs by intelligence agencies.


Justice Afridi, who was part of the seven-member bench hearing the case, mentioned his recusal in a note with the written order issued following the first hearing.

Citing his reason for the recusal, the judge maintained that the matters raised in the IHC judges’ letter should be viewed in accordance with the Supreme Judicial Council’s code of conduct.

“High Courts are independent courts under the Constitution. Article 184/3 should not be invoked on independence of high courts,” Justice Yahya maintained.

The seven-member bench conducting the hearing of suo motu case is headed by Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa and comprised six other judges — Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, Justice Yahya Afridi, Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel, Justice Athar Minallah, Justice Musarrat Hilali and Justice Naeem Akhtar Afghan.

During the first hearing of the matter on April 3, the country’s top judge said the SC will not tolerate any interference in judicial affairs and is taking the letter by Islamabad High Court judges “very seriously”.

Justice Yahya, in his note, maintained that the suo motu notice was taken by the apex court in “good faith”, however, it may harm the independence of high courts and their chief justices.

Meanwhile, SC’s Justice Athar Minallah also included an additional note which mentioned that he “could not convince himself” to agree with paragraphs one to 12 of the written order.

In his note, the apex court’s judge maintained that “interference” in cases with political implications cannot be ruled out.

The judge added that the court itself has accepted the same in the Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto reference, while the Asghar Khan case is also enough to see the extent of the interference.

Terming the IHC judges “whistleblowers”, Justice Minallah insisted that the letter of the judges shows that they kept raising the issue at every relevant forum. However, the “institution” did not respond despite the seriousness of the matter. The high court judges did what a judge is bound to do by oath, he stated, adding that there is no reason to doubt them.

“These judges who raise their voice should not face problems,” the judge wrote in his note.

The high court judges have sworn to uphold the Constitution, he added.

He also highlighted that the question of whether the prime minister can be summoned or not is yet to be considered by the full court.

“It is yet to be determined whether the independence of the judiciary is affected by the constitution of commissions by the government or not.

“It is not appropriate to comment on the questions that are before the court,” Justice Minallah maintained.

The SC judge stated that the administration must prove before the full court that there is no interference on its behalf.

Meanwhile, the bench — in the written order of the hearing — has issued notices to the Attorney General for Pakistan Mansoor Usman Awan, Pakistan Bar Council and the SC Bar seeking suggestions regarding the judiciary’s response on the matter as an institution.The bench’s order read that CJP Isa and senior puisne judge Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah met Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif after a full court meeting and consultation with high court judges.

In the order, the bench stated that a suo motu notice was taken owing to the seriousness of the matter, while the meeting with the premier was also held considering the issue’s gravity.

The order mentioned that the law minister, as per the AGP, visited former top judge Justice (retd) Tasadduq Jilani’s house and met him. The former chief justice was provided with the proposed terms of reference (TORs) of the inquiry commission.

Unfortunately, a malicious campaign was launched against the ex-CJP on social media, it added.

Only the secretary of the concerned department can be summoned through a judicial order, the order read, adding that it was stated during the hearing that the prime minister and federal ministers have an exception under Article 248.

According to Article 248, the premier and law minister cannot be summoned. Therefore, an exception was referred to the prime minister in the full court meeting.

The order also included the AGP’s arguments from the hearing, according to which the judges’ letter did not mention any incident during the tenure of CJP Isa.