In an unprecedented move, Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial on Friday made public the audio of the Judicial Commission of Pakistan’s (JCP) proceedings wherein his five nominees for the elevation to the Supreme Court were snubbed. The CJP, who is also the chairman of the JCP, took the decision after two JCP members – Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Justice Sardar Tariq Masood – wrote separately to the chairman and other commission members, contesting what was said by the PRO in a statement about the meeting.
“In these exceptional circumstances the Hon’ble chairman JCP has been pleased to relax the restriction under Rule 5(4) of the JCP Rules, 2010 and has directed for the audio recording of the JCP proceedings of 28.07.2022 to be made available on the official website of the SCP,” said a statement issued by the apex court.
The Supreme Court, in its statement, claimed that the “audio recording from time slot 1:29:45 to 1:38:08 contains the statement” made by Attorney-General for Pakistan Ashtar Ausaf Ali, led to the deferment of the meeting as claimed by the PRO.
The statement also claimed that the AGP “did not assess or reject the merits of any of the High Court judges proposed for appointment to the SCP”.
“As a result, 5 members of the JCP supported the deferment of the meeting as reported in the Press Note of 28.07.2022,” said the SCP.
‘Clash of egos’
The development comes amid brewing tensions regarding the JCP meeting and the matter of elevation of junior high court judges to the top court.
Senior lawyers have termed the matter “a clash of personal egos," pointing out that judges were just keen to avoid the impression that they were in the minority in the meeting.
Likewise, no explanation was offered as to why the CJP allegedly left the meeting abruptly without announcing any order. Interestingly, AGP Ashtar Ausaf also suggested considering the IHC chief justice’s elevation to SC.
Following the SC statement, Justice Isa and Justice Masood wrote letters to JCP contesting what was said by the PRO in a statement.
Justice Masood said that the press release issued by the SC PRO presented a “totally different version of events from what actually occurred”. He also called for the “immediate release of factual and correct detailed minutes of the meeting while giving detail of observations/discussions of each member in the meeting room”.
The letter alleged that when the matter became clear that five members of the commission have disapproved the names of four nominee judges, the CJP “unprecedentedly, undemocratically and without dictating his decision of the commission and formally ending the meeting” abruptly stood up.
Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan followed suit and left the meeting room uttering the word 'adjourned’, the letter added.
The letter further claimed that another JCP member, Justice Qazi Faez Isa, after the abrupt ending of the meeting, wrote to the chairman of the commission as well as other members, explaining what had transpired during the meeting.
“I have spoken to him before writing this to find out if after the receipt of his message whether the Hon’ble chairman or any member disputed what he had written yesterday after the meeting and he informed me that no one had,” Justice Masood wrote.
“The press release was issued afterwards. The PRO is not a member of the commission nor is he the commission's secretary."
Meanwhile, Justice Isa, in his letter, stressed that JCP's decisions made on the appointment of judges be released publicly.
Justice Isa had stated what justice Masood had said that CJP Bandial “did not dictate the decisions that were taken, and left the meeting quite abruptly, followed by Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan”.
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