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Wednesday May 22, 2024

'Judiciary cannot dictate parliament': Khawaja Asif assails SC's CJP-led bench

Defence minister excoriates CJP Bandial for his inclusion in larger bench to hear pleas against commission probing audio leaks involving judges

By Web Desk
May 30, 2023
Defence Minister Khawaja Asif speaking in the National Assembly in this undated photo. —Screengrab/GeoNews
Defence Minister Khawaja Asif speaking in the National Assembly in this undated photo. —Screengrab/GeoNews

Defence Minister Khawaja Asif on Tuesday fired a broadside at Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial, saying the judiciary cannot dictate parliament as "it is sovereign". 

He was referring to a five-member bench of the Supreme Court, headed by the chief justice, to hear petitions against the government's inquiry commission formed to probe audio leaks involving judges. 

"Parliament will retaliate if its authority is challenged and if our writ comes under attack, the house will counterattack," the defence minister told the top judge while speaking in the National Assembly.

He said that the government had formed a commission and it was stopped from operating by the chief justice. 

"It was expected that the chief justice would leave this matter to the commission as it also involved his mother-in-law," said the defence minister, who is also a senior leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).

Talking about the Arsalan Iftikhar case, he said that the former chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhary had recused himself from the bench at that time and distanced himself from his son's case.

"If Iftikhar Chaudhary can separate himself from the bench then the incumbent chief justice should also be separated," he said, adding, "It seems like good traditions are being abandoned."

Speaking about the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill, 2023, the seasoned politician said that the top court took notice of the bill before it even became an act.

"We have not added any outsider inside the commission," he said, adding, "We want an end to the one-man show in the apex court. We want transparency of justice to be increased as we don't want any confrontation with the judiciary."

Judicial commission

A high-powered judicial commission comprising Justice Qazi Faez Isa along with Justice Naeem Akhtar Afghan and Justice Aamer Farooq was tasked on May 20 to probe the audio leaks related to the judiciary.

The commission was tasked to complete the inquiry within 30 days.

Among the multiple audio leaks, the commission will also 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.

Subsequently, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan questioned the government for the "deliberate omission" of the terms of reference (TORs) and challenged the formation of the three-member judicial commission on audio leaks.

Babar Awan, the PTI chief's lawyer and party leader, had filed the plea on his behalf requesting the court to declare the notification for constituting the commission null and void.

Similarly, Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) President Abid Zubairi had also challenged the audio leaks commission to summon directing him to appear before the panel in connection with the inquiry.

Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar earlier said that the government did not consult CJP Bandial before forming the commission.

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 order was issued by a five-member apex court bench headed by CJP Bandial and comprising Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Syed Hasan Azhar Rizvi and Justice Shahid Waheed.

Audio leaks to be probed

  • The commission was notified to investigate the following audio leaks:
  • Call between former Punjab chief minister and an advocate about fixation of some cases before a particular SC bench.
  • Call between former Punjab chief minister and a sitting apex court judge.
  • Call between former chief justice of Pakistan Saqib Nisar and a senior lawyer.
  • Call between a lawyer and a journalist on the outcome of a case before a particular SC bench.
  • Call between former prime minister Khan and his party colleague about their links in the apex court.
  • Call between mother-in-law of CJP Umar Ata Bandial and wife of a lawyer regarding SC cases and conversation about an un-constitutional rule.
  • Call between ex-CJP Nisar’s son Najam Saqib and his friend mentioning his father in a political role.