LHC order puts govt on defensive

CJ Isa in tight rope after evidence shared with SC

Hasnaat Malik June 21, 2024
Lahore High Court building. FILE: PHOTO


The Lahore High Court’s (LHC) order regarding interference of spy agencies in the judicial functions of anti-terrorism court (ATC) judges has put the federal government on defensive in a suo motu case concerning a letter from six Islamabad High Court (IHC) judges about the interference of similar nature.

The order has also affected the position of Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa, who is not endorsing the superior courts judges’ concerns regarding the interference of executive agencies to manipulate the judicial functions in political cases.

In his 12-page written order, LHC Chief Justice Malik Shahzad Ahmad Khan has directed the registrar office to promptly send attested copies of special reports written by ATC judges in Sargodha and Rawalpindi regarding the agencies’ interference in their judicial functions to the Supreme Court registrar. These reports may be presented before the larger bench hearing the suo motu case.

"I think the LHC chief justice has finally answered the CJP’s repeated requests to present evidence of executive interference in judicial conduct. The CJP can now cease denying such interference during his tenure and focus on addressing these clear transgressions by the state into the judicial process" Abdul Moiz Jafferii Advocate said while talking to The Express Tribune. 

He also noted that these anti-terrorism court judges had demonstrated immense courage by accepting their postings and speaking out about the harassment they are facing. “Regarding the May 9 cases pending before them, the pressure on these judges is more akin to terrorism than the acts alleged in the cases themselves.”

Since the February 8 election results, the IHC judges have intensified their efforts to prevent agency interference in judicial functions.

In May last year, the IHC judges urged Chief Justice Aamer Farooq to initiate contempt proceedings against the interference of agencies in judicial functions. However, the IHC chief justice did not act on their letter.

When the IHC chief justice did not summon a full court meeting following the February 12 letter, six IHC judges wrote to the Supreme Judicial Council seeking guidance on the interference of agencies in their judicial functions.

However, CJP Isa took a different approach to their letter and threw the ball in the government’s court by holding a meeting with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. He later expressed a desire to establish an inquiry commission to investigate the allegations. However, his plan was thwarted due to former CJP Tassaduq Hussain's refusal to lead the commission.

Finally, the committee led by CJP Isa decided to invoke suo motu jurisdiction based on the letter from the six IHC judges.
In the first hearing of the suo motu case, CJP Isa justified his actions after receiving the letter from the six IHC judges.

He also questioned why they had not initiated contempt proceedings over the alleged interference.

However, the situation became more complicated after the LHC and the Peshawar High Court submitted their replies. Both courts acknowledged the interference of agencies, describing it as an 'open secret.'

Despite the high courts' replies, CJP Isa showed restraint and did not make any remarks to support three high courts concerns.

It is a fact that suo motu proceedings have not effectively deterred interference by agencies. Judges continue to report ongoing pressure.

Reports of interference by executive agencies, as reported by ATC judges, have put the government's legal team on the defensive before the larger bench hearing the suo motu case.

Even a senior law officer has acknowledged that such reports are making their position difficult in court.

However, he doubted the LHC chief justice's intention behind issuing this judicial order. 

He pointed out that while Justice Malik Shahzad instructed Punjab police to prevent lawyers from entering LHC premises through coercive measures, he simultaneously issued contempt notices to Punjab police officials for restricting lawyers and litigants from accessing the ATC Sargodha premises, citing security threats.

Lawyers also agree that CJP Isa is not obstructing any government plans related to PTI. However, incidents of interference like these may compel him to take a stand alongside the judges.

A PTI lawyer maintained that if the situation remained unchanged, the judges will unite, potentially rendering CJP Isa irrelevant.

Interestingly, the Pakistan Bar Council and the Supreme Court Bar Association led by the Independent Group, have remained completely silent regarding complaints of interference in judicial functions.

It will be interesting to see how long CJP Isa and the superior bar associations overlook these incidents of interference reported by various judges.

There is a need for the government authorities to review their strategy for dealing with judges. Coercive measures cannot be effective, indeed, they may even be demeaning.

It is imperative to conduct an inquiry into why trials of accused persons involved in the May 9 incidents could not be concluded until the February 8 elections.

The failure of both the prosecution and the police is evident. Rather than identifying their mistakes, the executive should refrain from questioning the judges who are reclaiming their authority, which was eroded over the past year.


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