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ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC), on Monday, issued pre-admission notices to Attorney General for Pakistan in a petition seeking the court’s directions for constitution of a high-powered inquiry commission for verifying the audio tape leak attributed to former chief justice of Pakistan Saqib Nisar.

A single bench of Chief Justice Athar Minallah heard the petition moved by president of Sindh High Court Bar Association (SHCBA) Salahuddin Ahmed advocate and member of the Judicial Commission of Pakistan (JCP) Syed Haider Imam Rizvi.

During the hearing, the IHC chief justice raised the question over the maintainability of the petition and asked from the petitioner that how this petition is maintainable and against whom was the petition filed?

The court also questioned if the petition was filed against the incumbent chief justice, to which, the counsel replied that it pertains to the audio leak involving a former chief justice.

Justice Minallah said that the judiciary has to confront big challenges and the Bar has fought for the judiciary’s independence. He added, “We live in a society where social media has no regulations and something starts doing rounds [on social media] every day.”

He said that the court would first decide whether the petition was maintainable or not. The IHC CJ said, “We have to deal with matters as per the law and avoid judicial activism.”

He added, “The court wants to ensure that this does not open new floodgates.”

In response to the pre-admission notice, Advocate Salahuddin Ahmed stated that the Pakistan Bar Council has approved a decision, and that if the court finds it necessary, it should also send a notice to the bar council.

At this, Justice Minallah replied that the court respects him for the rule of law. He continued that you are upset with some audio clips. He asked him that who has the authority to record chief justice of Pakistan’s audio tapes. “Did those, who have the capacity to record audio calls release the audio or the person sitting in the US,” asked the chief justice.

He further asked, “Suppose that the leaked audio clip of the former chief justice is genuine, then, where is the original copy of the clip and who possessed it.”

The court stated that the alleged audiotape is related to a matter that is currently under appeal, and that the parties involved in the audiotape case have shown no interest in bringing it [the case] before the court.

Later, the bench deferred the hearing of the case for a week for further proceedings. The president SHCBA and the member of the SBC, in their petition, have sought the formation of a commission to ascertain the truth behind the alleged audiotape of former chief justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar and probe other allegations against the judiciary.

They adopted that the audiotape has tarnished the image of the judiciary and to protect the independence of the judiciary, it is important to determine whether Justice (retired) Nisar’s audio is genuine or fake.

The petitioners mentioned five major allegations levelled against the higher judiciary in the last four years. The first is the alleged WhatsApp call; the second is the revelations of Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui; the third is the video of late Judge Arshad Malik which was played by PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz in her press conference; the fourth is Rana Shamim’s statement, and the fifth is an audiotape attributed to Justice (retired) Nisar.

They said that the alleged audiotape attributed to the former chief justice gave the impression that the judiciary is under pressure from external forces. They added that audio tapes have tarnished the image of the judiciary.

They suggested the judiciary to form an independent commission to protect its name as important questions had been raised about the independence of the judiciary. They further said that as a constitutional court, it is important to restore public confidence in an independent and impartial judiciary.

The SHCBA president and the JCP member requested the court for formation of an independent commission comprising well-known retired judges, lawyers, journalists, and members of civil society to investigate the alleged audiotape attributed to the former chief justice.

They prayed before the court that the commission should be asked to prepare terms of reference and investigate other allegations against the judiciary.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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