IHC again seeks replies from defence, interior secretaries

Court hears petition of ex-CJ’s son challenging body to probe audio leaks

ISLAMABAD   -  The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has once again sought replies from the secretaries of Defence and Interior in a petition of former chief justice Saqib Nisar’s son Mian Najam- us-Saqib challenging a Special Committee constituted by Speaker National Assembly to audit, inquire into and investigate audio leaks involving him.

A single bench of IHC comprising Justice Babar Sattar conducted hearing of the petition wherein he had already issued the directions to the Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Usman Awan to answer the court’s five questions related to recording of phone calls and whether Parliament is vested with legal authority to inquire into and investigate acts of private citizens.

In its written order, the IHC bench stated that there is a request for an adjournment on behalf of the Attorney General for Pakistan, who is busy before the Supreme Court.

He added that the court has briefly perused the reports filed on behalf of respondents No 5 to 8 and “it appears that none of the divisions of the federal government or Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) have addressed all the questions that posed to them, including, inter alia, as to which agencies possess the capacity to undertake electronic surveillance of citizens and record the telephone calls.” 

Justice Sattar wrote, “This Court while exercising restraint will afford one more opportunity to the Prime Minister’s office, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Defence and any other division, department or entity working under the control of the federal government to file an updated report as to the queries of this court, failing which this court would have no option but to directly implead the intelligence agencies and telecom operators to seek responses from them.”

He further said that let PTA also file a revised report providing relevant information with regard to who has been authorised to undertake legal intercepts for purposes of the laws currently in force in Pakistan and the legal framework and mechanism for grant of permission to undertake such legal intercepts. “And to the extent that any telecom operators have been issued any directions to allow legal intercepts, details of such instructions and/or license provisions will also be placed on record as part of PTA’s report, directed the IHC bench.

After issuing the aforementioned directions, the IHC bench deferred the hearing of the case till October 30 for further proceedings. It added that meanwhile, the injunctive order will continue till the next date of hearing. In this matter, Mian Najam moved the court through his counsels Sardar Latif Khosa and Shoaib Shaheen Advocate and cited federation of Pakistan through Secretary Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs and Speaker National Assembly and the Chairman of the Special Committee.

The petitioner’s counsel stated that conversation between two private individuals does not constitute a matter that falls within the domain of Parliament. He further stated that the Parliament has no authority to inquire and investigate into the matter as even in the event that any action attributed to the petitioner constituted an offence under any law in force, the power of inquiry and investigation regarding actions of citizens is an executive function. 

The counsel contended, “The federal government or the state has no authority or jurisdiction to record private conversations between citizens and undertake their surveillance.”

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