Friday June 21, 2024

No compromise on independence of judiciary, says CJP on agencies’ interference allegations

Top judges state "independence of judiciary is foundational pillar that upholds rule of law and strong democracy"

By Maryam Nawaz
March 28, 2024
CJP Qazi Faez Isa looks on in this picture released on September 22, 2023. — X/@QAU_Official
CJP Qazi Faez Isa looks on in this picture released on September 22, 2023. — X/@QAU_Official

ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa has pledged that come what may no compromise will be made on the independence of judiciary after Islamabad High Court (IHC) judges alleged spy agencies' interference in the judicial affairs.

In a statement issued following the top court's full court meeting and CJP Isa's meeting with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, a Supreme Court spokesperson said the top judge received a letter dated March 25, 2024 from six judges of the IHC on March 26.

On Tuesday, the IHC judges — Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kiyani, Justice Tariq Mehmood Jahangiri, Justice Babar Sattar, Justice Sardar Ejaz Ishaq Khan, Justice Arbab Muhammad Tahir, and Justice Saman Fafat Imtiaz — wrote the letter to the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC), urged the council to convene a judicial convention over the alleged interference of intelligence agencies in judicial affairs.

Seeking guidance from the council on “interference” of the spy agencies in courts’ affairs, the judges wrote: "We are writing to seek guidance from the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) with regard to the duty of a judge to report and respond to actions on part of members of the executive, including operatives of intelligence agencies, that seek to interfere with discharge of his/her official functions and qualify as intimidation, as well as the duty to report any such actions that come to his/her attention in relation to colleagues and/or members of the courts that the High Court supervises."

The letter came days after the top court declared the removal of former IHC Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui illegal, directing that he may now be considered as a retired judge.

“Considering the gravity of the allegations levelled in the said letter, the CJP called a meeting on the same day with the Chief Justice and all the Judges of the Islamabad High Court after Iftar at 8 pm at the Chief Justice’s residence,” the top court said in the statement on Thursday.

It said the concerns of all the judges were heard individually in a meeting that lasted for over two and a half hours.

The following day on March 27, the CJP met Attorney General Mansoor Usman Awan and Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar and thereafter the CJP along with Senior Puisne Judge Mansoor Ali Shah met with the president of the Supreme Court Bar Association and the senior most member of the Pakistan Bar Council present in Islamabad, as per the SC statement.

The full court meeting of all the judges of the Supreme Court was called under the chairmanship of CJP at 4pm the same day and the huddle deliberated over the issues raised in the letter sent by the six judges of the Islamabad High Court.

“A consensus was developed amongst the majority of the members of the Full Court that in view of the gravity of the situation, the CJP may hold a meeting with the Prime Minister of Pakistan on the issues raised in the said letter and the meeting was adjourned.”

Subsequently, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif accompanied by the law minister and the AGP met with the CJP, senior puisne judge and registrar of the Supreme Court at the apex court at 2pm today (Thursday), March, 28 2024.

The meeting lasted for about an hour and a half wherein the CJP “clearly stated that interference by the Executive in the affairs and judicial workings of Judges will not be tolerated and under no circumstances can independence of the judiciary be allowed to be compromised”.

He and the senior puisne judge stated that independence of judiciary is a foundational pillar that upholds the rule of law and a strong democracy.

During the meeting a proposal was made to constitute an inquiry commission under the Pakistan Commissions of Inquiry Act, 2017 which should be headed by a retired judge of “impeccable integrity” to inquire into the matter, as per the statement.

The statement further said that PM Shehbaz undertook that a meeting of the federal cabinet will be called to seek their approval for the constitution of the said commission.

It said the premier fully endorsed the views expressed by CJP Isa and Senior Puisne Judge Shah and further assured them that he will be taking other appropriate measures to ensure an independent judiciary, including issuance of directions to the relevant departments, and initiating legislation in accordance “with paragraph 53 of Suo Moto No. 7/2017 (the Faizabad Dharna judgment)”.

Thereafter, in continuation of the last meeting, the CJP again called a full court meeting and briefed the judges on what had transpired at the meeting with the prime minister, the spokesperson stated in the communique.