SC bars audio leaks investigation commission from working further
Govt has formed commission to probe leaked audios allegedly involving ex-chief justices, others
ISLAMABAD (Dunya News) – In a significant development on Friday, the Supreme Court has halted the operations of the audio leaks investigation commission following the order issued on the petitions filed by Imran Khan and others.
The five-member SC bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial, delivered the decision, with Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Muneeb Akhtar, Justice Shahid Waheed, and Justice Hasan Azhar Rizvi announced the verdict it had reserved earlier.
The judgment, relying heavily on the principle of separation of powers, stated, "In as much as the Federal Government appeared to have acted unilaterally in this matter, a constitutional principle of the highest importance had been, prima facie, breached".
"In the circumstances, till the next date of hearing, the operation of the impugned notification ... issued by the Federal Government is suspended as is the order made by the Commission and in consequence thereof proceedings of the Commission are stayed," the judgment read.
Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial remarked on Friday how could the government use the judges of the Supreme Court for its interests.
The chief justice made the remark as a five-member bench headed by him and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Syed Hassan Azhar Rizvi and Justice Shahid Waheed took up pleas against the inquiry commission formed by the government to probe audio leaks involving judges and politicians.
Dr Babar Awan is representing PTI Chairman Imran Khan while Supreme Court Bar Association President Abid Zuberi, Secretary Muqtadar Akhtar, petitioner Riaz Hanif Rahi and Attorney General for Pakistan Mansoor Usman Awan were also present in the court.
At the outset of the hearing, the AGP raised an objection to the formation of the larger bench. The CJP replied: “How can the government pick the judges of the Supreme Court to serve its interests?”
An enraged chief justice remarked it was a matter of the judiciary’s independence, adding: “Enough has been done, you may sit down”. He said the government could not add any judge of its choice to a bench. “If you have sought an advice, we would have told you about it,” the CJP said.
At one point, the AGP asked the chief justice to disassociate himself from the bench. The chief justice replied he respected his plea, adding that the judiciary did not fall under the ambit of federal government. He said the government should not intervene in court's matters as "we also respect the government".
Supreme Court Bar Association lawyer Shoaib Shaheen said it was necessary to hold consultation with the chief justice before roping in any serving judge as the top court had made it clear in its past rulings in various cases.
The chief justice then remarked: "I am sorry to say that the government has attempted to create differences among the judges". It is not mentioned in the constitution of the judicial commission who did the phone tapping in the first place, the CJP raised a question while observing: "Phone tapping in an unconstitutional activity".
After hearing the arguments, the bench reserved the verdict, stating that it would issue a reasonable order today.
Three-member inquiry commission
Earlier, the federal government had formed a three-member inquiry commission to investigate the leaked audios allegedly involving the judiciary and former chief justices and a judge, saying the conversations had raised apprehensions over impartiality of judges.
The three-member commission is headed by Supreme Court’s Justice Qazi Faez Isa while Balochistan High Court Chief Justice Naeem Akhtar Afghan and Islamabad High Court Chief Justice Aamer Farooq are its members.
PTI chief's plea
PTI chief Imran Khan approached the SC against the commission. In the constitutional petition, he pleaded the apex court to declare the commission null and void. Mr Khan took the plea that no judge could be appointed a member of the judicial commission without permission of the Chief Justice of Pakistan.
He argued that the proper forum for any probe or taking action against any judge was the Supreme Judicial Council. Imran Khan filed the petition through his counsel Babar Awan.
A day ago, the federal government handed over the alleged audio recordings to the inquiry commission for thorough examination.
The commission made significant progress in its investigation and received the audio files from the government, accompanied by their respective transcripts, duly signed by an authorised officer.
Sources familiar with the matter revealed that a total of eight audio recordings had been submitted to the commission for scrutiny. Moreover, the names, positions and contact information of individuals involved in these recordings had also been provided.