Allegations of judicial interference spark calls for probe

Bar associations throw weight behind IHC judges, call for probe


Hasnaat Malik March 27, 2024
The Supreme Court of Pakistan. PHOTO: APP

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ISLAMABAD:

 

A legal storm appeared to be brewing on Wednesday after calls for a thorough investigation surged in the wake of explosive allegations made by six judges of the Islamabad High Court (IHC), accusing the country’s intelligence agencies of meddling in judicial affairs.

Bar associations across the country rallied behind the judges, sounding the alarm over the alleged threat to judicial independence amid fears that recent court rulings, handed down in the charged political climate, were thrust into doubts.

Meanwhile, against the backdrop of escalating clamour for inquiry, Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa convened a full court meeting of the Supreme Court’s judges.

A meeting was also held between the Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP), Mansoor Awan, Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar and CJP Isa.

The judicial trio discussed the letter by the six IHC judges.Throwing its weight behind the judges, the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) reiterated its "unwavering support for the judiciary as an institution and for the Honorable Judges of the Islamabad High Court".

The apex body of jurists underscored the gravity of the allegations, emphasising the need for decisive action from the judiciary.The SCBAP not only condemned the alleged interference but also stated that it "requires serious actions by the judiciary as an institution".

SCBA President Shahzad Shaukat issued a statement expressing deep concern over the purported interference, stating, “Such issues should be addressed in a befitting manner.”

He further stressed, “bar associations, particularly the SCBA, will not tolerate any incidents aimed at undermining the independence, integrity, authority and functioning of judicial institutions.”In a letter addressed to CJP Isa, SCBA Additional Secretary Sardar Shahbaz Ali Khosa urged immediate action under Article 184(3) of the Constitution, advocating for a transparent hearing of the case.

Khosa highlighted recent crackdowns on journalists and media outlets reporting on the alleged interferences, urging the CJP to delve into the matter.

Echoing similar sentiments, the Islamabad High Court Bar Association (IHCBA) demanded a transparent inquiry into the allegations, urging legal repercussions for those implicated.The association, in a press release following an emergency meeting, condemned the intrusion of one institution into the affairs of another.

Read Ex-spymaster rejects IHC judge’s claims

Moreover, it called for unwavering commitment to independent decision-making within the judiciary, commending the courage of the six IHC judges who brought these allegations to light.In a synchronised response, the Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA) demanded swift action against implicated intelligence agencies and personnel.

It condemned the alleged interference as a grave threat to the rule of law and judicial independence.Expressing disappointment in the handling of the situation by both current and former CJPs, the LHCBA urged CJP Isa to foster an environment conducive to justice without fear or favour.

Meanwhile, the Sindh High Court Bar Association (SHCBA) proposed the formation of a judicial commission to investigate the allegations thoroughly.

The association stressed the need for institutional mechanisms to safeguard judicial independence and strengthen accountability within the judiciary.Similarly, the Balochistan Bar Council and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Bar Council (KPBC) echoed concerns over the alleged interference, with the KPBC emphasizing the judges' duty to act against such intrusion into judicial affairs.

In a statement, KPBC Vice-Chairman Sadiq Ali Mohmand deemed the allegations a "worrisome development," emphasising the judiciary's role in upholding the rule of law and defending the Constitution.

SC asked to form commission

Advocate Mian Dawood, in a separate move, approached the Supreme Court urging the immediate establishment of a high-power inquiry commission to investigate the allegations.He emphasised the need for "strict action be taken or directed against all those found guilty of the misconduct in result of the probe".

Dawood singled out the law, defence, and interior ministries, along with the Islamabad High Court and the six IHC judges, as respondents in the case.He argued that the judges' letter "seemed to be an attempt to shaken to [sic] confidence of the public on the judiciary and to weakening [sic] the independence of the judiciary".

Highlighting concerns, the petition noted that the letter "gave the impression that the executive and the ISI is interested in influencing" cases related to Imran, citing instances where the IHC had provided relief to him.

Furthermore, the plea pointed out that the judges' letter "seemed to be a designed move because as soon as the letter emerged on national media, the PTI leaders, workers and trolls started campaigning on social media" against Justice Farooq, CJP Isa, and other judges.

The petition raised alarm over the public scrutiny faced by the Pakistan Army and the judiciary due to the judges' letter.Arguing against this backdrop, the petition highlighted that a "campaign" was initiated against the CJP and other SC judges whenever the apex court "heard and passed strict orders in the cases of Bahria Town (Pvt) Ltd".

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