All IHC judges agree on agencies' ‘interference'

Full court decides to chalk out SOPs to deal with issue in future

Hasnaat Malik April 24, 2024
Islamabad High Court (IHC). PHOTO: Express/File


Islamabad High Court judges on Tuesday unanimously acknowledged that intelligence agencies were “interfering” in their judicial functions.

A full court meeting was held at the IHC under the chairmanship of its Chief Justice Aamer Farooq in view of the Supreme Court's decision wherein proposals were sought from high courts as how to protect the independence of judiciary from the “interference” of agencies.

Earlier, both the Lahore and Peshawar high courts held full court meetings to discuss the matter.
It has been learnt that the IHC full court meeting was held in a pleasant environment. All eight judges of the IHC agreed that the interference of agencies in judicial functions would not be tolerated. They also decided to chalk out new standard operating procedures (SOPs) on how the judiciary would respond in case the agencies “meddle” in its affairs in the future.

Sources told The Express Tribune that inspection judges were not empowered in the past. Now they have been given the authority to recommend to the IHC CJ on what action to take against those who interfered in the functions of the judges of district courts.

They will share their proposals as to how the independence of judiciary can be secured.

On March 25 this year, six IHC judges wrote a letter to the Supreme Judicial Council seeking guidance to counter the interference of intelligence agencies in their affairs.

They also suggested holding a judicial convention on this subject.

Instead of giving an 'institutional response', the Supreme Court, by majority, approved the formation of an inquiry commission to investigate into the six IHC judges’ letter.

Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa also held meeting with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to discuss this matter.

However, former CJP Tassaduq Hussain Jillani recused himself from heading the inquiry commission in this issue.

Following his recusal, the top court took suo motu notice of the matter.

During the first hearing, CJP Isa justified all his steps after the six IHC judges’ letter.

However, SC’s Justice Athar Minallah dissented with his steps and held that the burden was on the executive to ensure that nobody was interfering with judicial functions.

It is being witnessed that a malicious drive has started against Justices Athar Minallah and Babar Sattar of the IHC, one of the six judges who wrote that letter, on social media.

Their family details are being shared on social media but the government institutions are silent on this campaign.

Interestingly, when CJP Isa faced criticism on account of the SC’s January 13 order, the government formed a joint investigation team (JIT) to inquire into the matter.

Superior bars, which were raising their voice in favour CJP Isa after the January 13 order, are silent on the malicious online campaign against the IHC judge and Justice Minallah.

A lawyer believes that the government needs to understand that the executive always loses the battle with judges as was witnessed in the cases of former CJP Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and the incumbent one, Justice Isa, in these matters.

A debate is raging as to whether or not the judges have gained more independence during CJP Isa’s tenure.

It is a fact that CJP Isa could not give an appropriate institutional response in the matter of the six IHC judges’ letter.

It is a major test for the judiciary as to how the independence of the IHC judges will be secured in the coming days.

Lawyers believe that the six IHC judges have achieved their purpose as the issue of the intelligence agencies’ “interference” has been highlighted through suo motu proceedings.

If the inquiry commission had worked, then its findings could have come against the six IHC judges.
In a related development, the IHC has decided to send Judge Abual Hasnat Zulqarnain, who presided over the proceedings of a special court established to hear the cases filed under the Official Secrets Act and handed down 10-year jail sentences each to PTI founding chairman Imran Khan and party vice chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi, back to his respective department.

Special Courts Inspection Judge Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani has sent a recommendation to the IHC CJ.

The recommendation stated that the services of Judge Zulqarnain should be returned to the LHC.


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