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Sunday July 21, 2024

Isa questions SC stay on judicial panel without being put on notice

The apex court judge says under SC rules order is issued after hearing respondents; commission for probing audio leaks constituted under law

By Desk News & Sohail Khan
May 28, 2023
Justice Qazi Faez Isa. — SCP
Justice Qazi Faez Isa. — SCP

ISLAMABAD: Justice Qazi Faez Isa Saturday stated that the Judicial Commission (JC) probing the alleged audio leaks was not notified before the hearing, so how it was restrained from its work.

A three-member JC, headed by Justice Qazi Faez Isa and comprising Balochistan High Court Chief Justice Naeem Akhtar Afghan and Islamabad High Court Chief Justice Aamir Farooq, adjourned its proceedings — a day after a five-member bench of the Supreme Court stayed the proceedings of the commission until May 31.

“The learned Attorney General for Pakistan has read out order dated May 26, passed in the Constitution Petitions No14to 17/2023, which he states are petitions filed under Article 184(3) of the Constitution,” says an order passed by the commission.

“We inquired from the learned Attorney General whether the Inquiry Commission has been arrayed as a respondent and he stated that in constitution petitions No 14 and 15/2023 the commission is arrayed as respondent No 2 through its secretary.

“In view of the aforesaid order, the proceedings of the commission are adjourned,” the order concluded. Earlier, at the outset of the hearing, Attorney General Mansoor Awan appeared before the commission and read out the order, passed by the five-member bench on Friday, staying the JC proceedings. Upon hearing the order, Justice Isa said: “According to the rules of the Supreme Court, a decision is taken after listening to the parties.” He further said that a copy of the order should be provided to the commission.

He also inquired if the apex court had issued any order regarding the inquiry commission and remarked: “I also know a little about the Constitution. The commission was a party in the matter, why was it not heard?” The top court judge then asked the AGP what he was doing in the courtroom on Friday. “Were you given notice [to appear before the court] or were you just sitting there?” he asked. The AGP replied that it was communicated to him verbally that he should appear before the court. “After the hearing, the notice was issued to me,” he said.

Justice Isa observed that as per the Supreme Court Rules, an order is issued after hearing the respondents, adding that none of the petitioners sent a notice to the JC. He then remarked that the commission was not notified before the hearing. “So how was it stopped from working?” Turning to the AGP, he asked: “Why didn’t you tell the court yesterday [Friday] that we had already addressed the points of their objections? I am surprised you did not reject these points.” Similarly, Justice Isa observed that none of the petitioners ensured their appearance before the commission on Saturday. “The petitioners held a press conference outside the court but they did not appear before us,” the judge remarked, adding that neither Abid S Zubairi, the petitioner, nor his counsel Shoaib Shaheen bothered to appear before the commission. Referring to the points raised by the petitioners regarding the privacy of citizens, Justice Isa remarked that one cannot peep into someone’s house but questioned whether CCTV cameras installed on streets are also against privacy.

“The inquiry commission was doing nothing that would be considered a breach of anyone’s privacy,” Justice Isa remarked. The judge observed that Shoaib Shaheen, counsel for the petitioner, is always speaking on TV adding that as per rules, the lawyer arguing a case in court cannot talk to the media. “Shoaib Shaheen violates the Lawyers Practice Act while appearing on TV every day but he did not bother to appear before the commission,” Justice Isa observed.

He further added that another person who had been issued a notice to appear before the court had sent an application, excusing himself. “Another party has said that he is in Lahore for a medical check-up,” the top court judge remarked. He asked us to take his statement when the commission goes to Lahore, the justice said, referring to its previous announcement that while the commission would meet at the SC, it could travel to Lahore to take statements of the older women involved. He then called Abdul Qayyum Siddiqui — the only person of the four to appear before the court — to the rostrum. Meanwhile, the judge asked the AG to read out the oath of judges which he did. Justice Isa observed that under the oath, judges ought to render their duties in accordance with law and the Constitution. The judge further observed that the JC was constituted under the law, adding that they are the slaves of Allah only and not anyone else’s. Justice Isa observed that the judges get nothing to conduct such a painful investigation, adding that if the commission was not allowed under oath, he would have excused himself. Justice Isa also asked the AG about the point mentioned by the apex court order regarding Twitter. The AG replied that it was software, adding that he did not know about the hacker.

Justice Isa said that there was a talk of giving money to the judge but the investigation had been halted. Defending the JC, the SC’s senior-most judge observed it should at least be determined who was releasing the audio and whether they were real or not. The judge observed that if there is an investigation, all of this will be known. Referring to the apex court’s declaration that the subject matter of reference transcends any particular high court, Justice Isa said that the high courts are not subordinate to the Supreme Court. The judge further observed that the apex court cannot supervise the courts, adding that the decision of the Supreme Court is applicable to the subordinate judiciary and executive, but not the Supreme Court.

Justice Isa noted that federalism was discussed in the order passed by the five-member bench, adding that the Supreme Court annulled several decisions of the high courts, and apparently federalism was destroyed. The five-member larger bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial on Friday suspended the operation of the government’s notification, constituting the JC for probing the veracity of alleged audios and halted until May 31, the proceedings of the commission.