Supreme Court stays proceedings of commission formed to probe audio leaks

Supreme Court of Pakistan.— Reuters/File

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Friday stayed the proceedings of the High-Powered Judicial Commission set up to investigate the audio leaks related to the judiciary.

It also suspended the federal government’s notification regarding the constitution of the commission.

This order was issued by a five-member bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Umar Atta Bandial comprising Justice Ijaz Ul Ahsan, Justice Muneeb Akhtar, Justice Syed Hasan Azhar Rizvi and Justice Shahid Waheed.

The bench passed this order on Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) President Abid Shahid Zuberi, SCBA Secretary Muqtadir Akhtar Shabbir, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan and Advocate Riaz Hanif Rahi. Issued during the hearing of separate applications filed by The formation of the commission is illegal.

The SCBA president’s counsel pointed out that the commission had already started functioning and issued an order on May 22 that its proceedings would be made public, the order said. The next meeting of the commission was to be held on May 27 (tomorrow).

“In the circumstances, pending the next date of hearing, the impugned Notification No. SRO.596(I)/2023 dated 19.05.2023 issued by the Federal Government vide order dated 22.05.2023 is hereby suspended. “The Commission and consequently the proceedings of the Commission have been stopped,” he said.

The federal government last week set up a judicial commission to investigate the veracity of the recent audio leaks and their impact on the independence of the judiciary.

The government constituted a three-member judicial commission under the chairmanship of senior judge of the Supreme Court, Justice Qazi Faiz Isa, including Chief Justice of Islamabad High Court, Amir Farooq and Chief Justice of Balochistan High Court, Naeem Akhtar Afghan.

The government said the audio leaks raised serious concerns about the independence of the judiciary in the public interest. Therefore, it has constituted a commission under Section 3 of the Pakistan Commissions of Inquiry Act, 2017.

Harsh remarks

During Hearing Earlier, Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Usman Awan requested the Chief Justice to recuse himself from the case and leave the matter to the next senior judge.

AGP Awan said, “It is requested that the Chief Justice not be part of this bench.”

Responding to the AGP, Chief Justice Bandyal said: “You should not interfere with our administrative powers.”

The Supreme Court judge added that he respects Awan’s request, adding that the post of Chief Justice is constitutional.

He said that I knew you would raise this objection. Judiciary is not subordinate to the government. There is separation of powers in the constitution.

The country’s top judge also lamented the government’s “hasty” decision to legislate to regulate the chief justice’s powers.

Chief Justice Bandyal asked the AGP how the government could use judges for its own purposes.

Chief Justice Bandyal also questioned the formation of the judicial panel without his consultation. He said that there is no mention of consultation with the Chief Justice in the Commission of Inquiry Act 1956, it is a ‘practice’ for the Chief Justice to nominate a judge for the commission.

The Chief Justice said that three such notifications were earlier withdrawn when the Chief Justice was not approached. There are also five decisions of the Supreme Court in this regard.

Audio leaks will be investigated.

The Commission was notified to investigate the following audio leaks.

  • A meeting between the former Chief Minister of Punjab and a lawyer regarding the settlement of some cases before a special bench of the Supreme Court.
  • Meeting between former Chief Minister Punjab and Supreme Court Judge.
  • Meeting between former Chief Justice of Pakistan Saqib Nisar and senior lawyer.
  • A meeting between a lawyer and a journalist on the outcome of a case before a specific bench of the Supreme Court.
  • A call between former Prime Minister Khan and his party colleague in the Supreme Court about their links.
  • Discussion between Chief Justice Umar Atta Bandial’s mother-in-law and lawyer’s wife on Supreme Court cases and unconstitutional rules.
  • A call between former Chief Justice Nisar’s son Najam Saqib and his friend, mentioning his father in a political role.

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