Friday June 21, 2024

Six IHC judges write to SJC over spy agencies’ ‘interference’

The IHC judges, in their letter, supported Justice Siddiqui’s request to investigate the allegations made by him

By Awais Yousafzai & Maryam Nawaz
March 27, 2024
A general view of Islamabad High Court. — Geo News/File
A general view of Islamabad High Court. — Geo News/File 

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court judges have urged the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) to convene a judicial convention over the matter of alleged interference of members of the executive, including operatives of intelligence agencies, in judicial affairs.

In a letter to the SJC, six judges of the IHC — Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani, Justice Tariq Mehmood Jahangiri, Justice Babar Sattar, Justice Sardar Ejaz Ishaq Khan, Justice Arbab Muhammad Tahir and Justice Saman Imtiaz — sought guidance from the council on the “interference” of spy agencies in courts’ affairs.

“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,” read the letter.

The development 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. The verdict noted that the SJC proceeded against Justice Siddiqui on the “assumption that the truth or falseness of the allegations levelled” by the former judge was “irrelevant”. It also noted that the SJC opined that Justice Siddiqui had failed to substantiate, independently corroborate, substantiate or prove the allegations levelled by him.

The IHC judges, in their letter, supported Justice Siddiqui’s request to investigate the allegations made by him and urged that the scope of such investigation be expanded to determine whether such interference in relation to the administrative functions of IHC (including composition of benches and marking of cases) and judicial proceedings of the courts that IHC supervises are still continuing and whether judges of high courts, district and special courts are discharging functions under explicit and or veiled threats of coercion by intelligence agencies.

“We will also note that the code of conduct for judges prescribed by SJC provides no guidance on how judges must react to and or report incidents that are tantamount to intimidation and interfere with judicial independence.”

The judges further said that they “believe it is imperative to inquire into and determine whether there exists a continuing policy on the part of the executive branch of the state, implemented by intelligence operatives who report to the executive branch, to intimidate judges, under threat of coercion or blackmail, to engineer judicial outcomes in politically consequential matters.”

In addition to this, the IHC judges requested that a judicial convention be called to consider the matter of “interference of intelligence operatives with judicial functions and or intimidation of judges in a manner that undermines the independence of the judiciary”.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf spokesperson urged the Chief Justice of Pakistan to take immediate notice and action in the light of letter of the six IHC judges.

He termed the contents of the letter very sensitive, disturbing and worrisome. He claimed the letter has confirmed the authenticity of the stance of PTI’s founder chairman Imran Khan and the party regarding the illegal and unconstitutional activities of intelligence agencies and state institutions.

“Prime Minister Imran Khan and former federal ministers and central leaders of PTI were similarly attacked with espionage devices. In the last 75 years, in general and in the last 23 months, due to the unconstitutional activities of these agencies and institutions, Pakistan has become a victim of the Constitution and law, basic human rights and democracy,” he contended.

Due to the unbridled interference of intelligence agencies and state institutions, he alleged, the biggest robbery in the history of the country has been done on the people’s mandate and the elected majority of the people has been forcibly converted into a minority.

“Instead of being bound by the Constitution and the law, the criminal disobedience of the Constitution and the law by these agencies and their associated personalities has virtually handed over Pakistan to the jungle system,” he alleged.

He said no section of the society, including civil society members, journalists, government officials, judges and journalists, is safe from this interference.

“The time has come to take decisive action against this abominable practice prevalent in the country and make the intelligence agencies and state institutions bound by the Constitution and the law. PTI supports in principle the views of the honourable HC judges and their request to the Chief Justice of Pakistan and reiterates its long-standing request to him for immediate and decisive action,” he noted.