ISLAMABAD: The federal government, on Saturday, set up a three-member judicial commission to inquire into the veracity of the wide circulations of audio in the media and social media raising serious apprehension about the independence and impartiality of judges of the superior court in the administration of justice.
The commission will be headed by Justice Qazi Faez Isa, senior puisne judge of the Supreme Court, and comprise Chief Justice Islamabad High Court Aamer Farooq and Chief Justice Balochistan High Court Naeem Akhtar Afghan.
The commission is tasked to conclude the inquiry of the audio leaks and submit its report to the federal government within 30 days. “However, if the commission requires further time, the federal government shall grant it,” the notification added.
The commission was formed under Section 3 of the Inquiry Commission Act 2017, which states that “whenever it is expedient to conduct an inquiry into any definite matter of public importance, the Federal Government may, by notification in the official Gazette, constitute a Commission of Inquiry in accordance with the provisions of this Act”.
According to the notification, a wide circulation of controversial audios had been “witnessed on the national electronic, print and social media, allegedly regarding the Judiciary and former Chief Justices/ Judges, conversation raising serious apprehensions about the independence, impartiality and uprightness of the Chief Justices/Judges of the Superior Courts in the administration of justice.”
It said such audio leaks had “eroded public trust and serious concerns have been raised by the general public regarding independence, impartiality and uprightness of the chief justices/judges of the superior courts”. The notification further highlighted the significance of the judiciary as one of the main pillars under the Constitution. It expressed concern that when the independence of the judiciary is compromised, it undermines society’s confidence.
The notification stated, “The society’s confidence is deeply affected when the independence of the judiciary is tarnished, as it plays a pivotal role in upholding the rule of law and ensuring justice for all.” Under the terms of reference in the notification, the government mentioned each of the aforementioned audio leaks. The commission is entrusted with the responsibility of investigating whether any violations have occurred in relation to “the administration of justice, the independence of the judiciary, the right to a fair trial, and the equality of citizens”.
“If the stated audios are fake or fabricated, to inquire into and fix responsibility with regards, as to who is making these and recommend action to be taken in this regard; and any matter ancillary and incidental thereto or which the Commission deems fit to inquire into it in the interest of justice,” it added.
The commission will have “all the powers that are granted to it under Pakistani Commissions of the Inquiry Act 2017” while directing executive authorities in the federation and the provinces to act in aid of the commission in discharge of its functions and to comply with any of its directions.
The Terms of Reference of the Commission will be; To inquire into the veracity of audio leaks allegedly, a) call between ex-Chief Minister Punjab (Pervaiz Elahi) and an advocate regarding a sitting judge of the Supreme Court, b) between ex-CM Punjab and an advocate regarding fixation of some cases before a particular bench of the Supreme Court, c) between ex-CM Punjab and a sitting judge of Supreme Court, d) between ex-CJP (Saqib Nisar) and a senior lawyer (Khawaja Tariq Rahim), e) between a lawyer and a journalist on the outcome of a case before a particular bench of the Supreme Court, f) between former prime minister and his party colleague about their links in the Supreme Court, g) between mother-in-law of the Chief Justice of Pakistan (Umar Ata Bandial) and wife of a lawyer regarding cases in the Supreme Court and hoping for unconstitutional rule, h) between son of a former Chief Justice of Pakistan and his friend mentioning his father in political role; To inquire into the correctness of the allegations surfacing on print and electronic media and social media allegedly regarding the son-in-law of the chief justice of the Lahore High Court influencing the judicial proceeding before the LHC.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2023