Tuesday October 03, 2023

Stay against notification: Judicial panel also objects to three SC judges on bench

CJP says the attorney general’s arguments on objections over the bench to be heard next week

June 01, 2023
A combo of Justice Qazi Faez Isa, IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq and Balochistan High Court Chief Justice Naeem Akhtar Afghan. — SC/IHC/BHC/File
A combo of Justice Qazi Faez Isa, IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq and Balochistan High Court Chief Justice Naeem Akhtar Afghan. — SC/IHC/BHC/File

ISLAMABAD: The judicial commission probing the veracity of alleged audio leaks Wednesday raised objections on three out of five members of the bench, led by Chief Justice Umer Ata Bandial, hearing petitions challenging the government’s notification of constituting the commission.

In response to a notice, issued by the five-member bench, Hafeezullah Khattak, secretary to the commission, submitted that the judicial panel had no interest in the matter other than undertaking the assignment given to it and to do so strictly in accordance with the constitution and the law.

The commission promised that legal objections and concerns raised before it would be considered. The commission, however, raised objections over the five-member bench hearing the petitions, and submitted that it would not be appropriate for the bench to hear the petitions.

The commission secretary submitted that the oath taken by the chief justice, justices and judges of the Supreme Court and high courts required them to act in accordance with the constitution and the law. “They are also required to abide by the code of conduct, issued by the Supreme Judicial Council and not to allow their personal interest to influence their official conduct or official decisions,” the commission submitted.

The commission submitted that the code of conduct also requires that “A judge must decline resolutely to act in a case involving his own interest including those of persons whom he regards and treats them as their near relatives or close friends.”

“A judge must refuse to deal with any case in which he has a connection with one party or its lawyer more than the other, or even with both parties and their lawyers,” the reply added.

The commission submitted that one of the audio recordings allegedly pertains to the mother-in-law of Chief Justice of Pakistan Umer Ata Bandial; Justice Munib Akhtar might also be mentioned in the said recording, adding that in another audio recording, reference was made to case fixation before a particular bench, headed by Justice Ijazul Ahsen.

Defending the government’s notification, the commission secretary submitted that the Act, under which the commission was appointed, does not stipulate that the government must consult the chief justice of Pakistan before it constitutes a commission.

The Act also does not grant the chief justice the power to nominate members of a commission merely because the government may elect to consult the chief justice does not mean that it has to.

The secretary submitted that the Act has existed for over six years and, to the best of the knowledge of the commission, no challenge to it or specifically to its Section 3(2) has been made, let alone the same having been struck down.

Referring to the assertions of the court regarding usurpation of the powers of the Supreme Judicial Commission (SJC), the secretary submitted that the inquiry commission on audio leaks had already clarified its position on Article 209 in its first session. The secretary submitted that the commission had clarified that its action should not be considered as the action of Supreme Judicial Council.

Meanwhile, Chief Justice Umer Ata Bandial said they would hear the Attorney General next week on the objections raised by the federal government on the bench hearing the instant petitions.

The CJP said that the AG petition was not yet filed. He added they will ask the registrar office to allot number to his petition, directing Mansoor Awan to provide copies of his petition to all the parties concerned.

During the hearing advocate Riaz Hanif Rai told the court that he has also filed a contempt petition against the Judicial Commission probing the audio leaks. The CJP said that it would also be taken up next week. Shoiab Shaheen, counsel for petiitioner Abid S Zubairi submitted before the court that they are defending the court on TV channels, adding that whatever the government made at the doorstep of the apex court was witnessed by all and sundry.

At this the Chief Justice said that the court will also hear to the counsel for the petitioner. Meanwhile, the CJP said that they will hear the matter next week and adjourned the hearing.