CJP warns executive not to interfere in SC affairs

Justice Bandial says first govt sought recusal of CJP from larger bench on audio leaks commission, but now it demands dropping of other two judges as well n CJP Office is a constitutional post and it holds administrative powers vested by the Constitution.


ISLAMABAD   -   Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandi­al has warned the exec­utive against interfer­ing with the Supreme Court’s affairs.

The apex court Tues­day reserved the or­der on the applications of the federal govern­ment for the recusal of Chief Justice and oth­er two judges from a bench hearing the peti­tions against the inqui­ry commission set up to probe the audio leaks.

Coming down hard on the Attorney Gen­eral for Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Uman Awan, Justice Bandial asked: “How can you say that two judges, including the chief justice, are in­volved in the matter?”

Justice Bandial said that first the govern­ment sought the recus­al of the chief justice, but now the government is demanding dropping of other two judges as well.

A five-member bench of the apex court head­ed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Umar Ata Bandial and com­prising Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Syed Hasan Azhar Rizvi and Justice Shahid Waheed con­ducted hearing of the petitions of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan, Presi­dent Supreme Court Bar Associ­ation Abid Shahid Zuberi, SCBA Secretary General Muqtedir Akhtar Shabbir and advocate Riaz Hanif Rahi.

The bench turned down the request of Hanif Rahi to file con­tempt petition against the head of Inquiry Commission [Justice Qazi Faez Isa]. The Chief Jus­tice said that the matter of con­tempt is between the Court and the contemnor. “We don’t want to launch contempt proceed­ings, wherein you have alleged the party, a sitting judge of this court.” “Please try to under­stand that a judge can’t be made party in contempt [petition],” he added. Attorney General for Pakistan Usman Mansoor Awan argued that in light of the judg­ments of the Supreme Court the judges mentioned in the fed­eration’s petition should re­cuse from the bench and a new bench be constituted for hear­ing of the petitions of PTI and others. He contended that the federation has not alleged any bias against them but the recus­al is sought on the basis of their conflict of interest.

Justice Bandial said that the CJP Office is a constitutional post and this office holds the administrative powers that are vested by the Constitution, law and the Supreme Court Rules, 1980. When the chief justice is not available then there is alter­nate i.e. the acting chief justice, he added.

The attorney general argued that Article 4 of the judges’ Code of Conduct requires that the judges recuse when there is conflict of interest. The Chief Justice questioned that you pre­sume that three of us have con­flict of interest. You presume it. He added, “We are dealing with the Constitution, then there is independence of judiciary and the interference of the internal working of the Supreme Court.”

Justice Munib remarked that whether the government be­lieves that the audios are au­thentic and credible. The AGP responded that clause 1 of the SRO of the Commission talks about the veracity. Justice Mu­nib then inquired that is it true that some of the audios are re­leased by the ‘indibel’. He said that the interior minister be­fore checking the credibili­ty, veracity and authenticity rushed to hold the press con­ference. The leaked audios were played in the public and then on TV channels and social media. He added, “I saw one of the press conferences of the minister which was given wide publicity.”

Addressing the AGP, Justice Munib said it is not right that if a person comes across such au­dio then was it not his respon­sibility that he should have first checked the authenticity, credi­bility and prominence of those audios instead of holding the press conference. He further questioned that is it legally pos­sible? He further said, “The per­son acted recklessly in this par­ticular case.” He said if a person doing it then is it maintainable to file application asking for the recusal of the judges.

The attorney general argued that if any minister held press conferences then he is doing this in his personal capacity, as it is not the cabinet policy.” Jus­tice Munib said that shouldn’t the minister was asked to resign from the cabinet.

The AG said that those state­ments were made before May 19, before the issuance of no­tification for inquiry commis­sion. The Chief Justice said that the judges are being maligned. The cabinet has not dissociated itself from the statements and the malicious campaign. The cabinet members are disparag­ing the judiciary.

The Chief Justice inquired, who is this ‘indibell’. Who plant­ed this name on Twitter han­dle as this occurs again and again with such material (audio leaks)? Has the government tak­en some action in this regard?

The AGP replied that the Commission will probe the au­dio leaks in Pakistan and all around. He said the Commis­sion with the assistance of the intelligence agencies will un­dertake this exercise. He then said that the purpose of judg­es in the Commission was that the government does not want that the executive branch over­sees the affairs of the judiciary. The Commission would have to find the regular telephone and WhatsApp tapping of the con­versation. Justice Munib said that the conversations are at­tributed to the judges of the apex court.

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