ISLAMABAD-The Islamabad High Court (IHC) will resume the hearing tomorrow in a petition filed by Mian Najam-us-Saqib, the son of former Chief Justice Saqib Nisar. He is challenging a Special Committee constituted by the Speaker of the National Assembly to audit, inquire into, and investigate audio leaks involving him.
A single bench of the IHC, comprising Justice Babar Sattar, will conduct the hearing of the petition. In a previous session, Justice Sattar had issued directions to the Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP), Mansoor Usman Awan, to address the court’s five questions related to the recording of phone calls and the legal authority of Parliament to inquire into and investigate private citizens’ actions.
During the previous hearing, AGP Mansoor Awan stated that the matter is also being heard in the Supreme Court and requested the bench to await answers to the debated questions in the apex court.
In response, Sardar Latif Khosa, the petitioner’s lawyer, contended that the issue at hand pertained to the fundamental rights of Pakistan’s 25 million people. He questioned how the government could form a judicial commission without consulting the Chief Justice of Pakistan. He further argued that the government should have consulted the CJP, who could have nominated judges to be part of the inquiry.
Justice Sattar inquired from AGP about the time required to answer the court’s questions. Subsequently, he granted the AGP four weeks to assist the court with its five questions. The suspension of the summons issued by the special committee to Najam Saqib was also extended, and the hearing was deferred until August 16 for further proceedings.
Mian Najam filed the petition through his counsels, Sardar Latif Khosa and Shoaib Shaheen Advocate, naming the Federation of Pakistan, the Secretary Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs, the Speaker of the National Assembly, and the Chairman of the Special Committee as respondents.
The petitioner’s counsel argued that conversations between private individuals do not fall within the domain of Parliament. He further asserted that Parliament lacks the authority to inquire into and investigate such matters, even if the petitioner’s actions could be considered an offence under existing law. The power to investigate citizens’ actions belongs to the executive branch.
The counsel contended, “The Federal Government or the State has no authority or jurisdiction to record private conversations between citizens and undertake their surveillance.”
Justice Sattar had directed the Attorney General to assist the court in addressing several questions, including whether Parliament has the legal authority to investigate private citizens who hold no public office, and whether such authority interferes with the Executive’s domain. Other questions included whether the Constitution and parliamentary rules authorize the Speaker of the National Assembly to form a Special Committee to investigate actions of private citizens not affiliated with Parliament or public office and whether the Executive, particularly the Federal Government, has the authority to record or surveil phone calls between private citizens.
The bench inquired about the agency authorized to record phone calls, how the right to liberty and privacy balances against the State’s interest in recording phone calls, and which agency holds the authority for such surveillance? In the absence of legal sanction for phone tapping, the bench asked who would be accountable for surveillance and encroachment on citizens’ rights or the unauthorized release of private recordings.