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.