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ISLAMABAD: A three-member judicial commission formed to inquire into the veracity of the wide circulations of audio in the media and social media announced that its proceedings will be made public in order to ensure transparency and openness.

The commission, headed by Justice Qazi Faez Isa, senior puisne judge of the top court, and comprising Chief Justice Balochistan High Court Naeem Akhtar Afghan and Chief Justice Islamabad High Court Aamer Farooq, on Monday, resumed its proceeding in Courtroom No. 7 of the Supreme Court.

The Cabinet Division on May 20 issued a notification for the setting up of the judicial commission in pursuant to the Pakistan Commission of Inquiry Act, 2017, to investigate the leaked audio clips allegedly involving some current and former members of the superior judiciary and their family members to determine their “veracity” and “impact on the independence of the judiciary.”

The commission decided that unless any request to proceed in camera is made, which will be considered at that juncture, the Commission’s proceedings will be open to all.

It is clarified that any person/witness appearing before the Commission is neither an accused nor will be treated as such; and, will be called upon to ascertain facts as per the task assigned to the Commission. It is further clarified that every person/witness will be treated with due regard and respect, and we expect that this will be reciprocated.

Justice Faez said undoubtedly, the Act read with the notification empowers the Commission to employ coercive means to ensure attendance/compliance, however, we hope, and expect, that all concerned will come forward when called upon to do so without the Commission having to resort to coercive measures to secure attendance and/or compliance with the directions of the Commission.

The commission said the Chairperson and Members of the Commission shall not be contacted, and appointed Hafeezullah Khajjak, Deputy Registrar, Balochistan High Court, as the Secretary of the Commission. The federal government was directed to provide an Android cell phone with SIM to the Secretary immediately, and the Secretary’s contact details will be shared with all.

All concerned, including witnesses and the general public will be informed through advertisements, published in three Urdu and three English language national newspapers of wide circulation. The advertisements shall inform all those mentioned in the notification and by those who may have any information to provide the same to the Secretary through email, messages on cell phone and/or by post

Any information and/or document which anyone wants to provide to the Commission must be done so by the person mentioning his name, address and contact details (address, email and cell phone number).

If the elderly ladies’ residents of Lahore whose statements are required to be recorded request that their statements be recorded at Lahore the venue of the Commission may be shifted to Lahore, in a courtroom in the Supreme Court Branch Registry, Lahore.

The persons, allegedly mentioned in the audio recordings, will be issued notices under the signature of the Secretary, of the Commission and notices will be handed over to the office of the learned AG, to ensure service through an officer of the Federal Government, which shall also be sent through courier service.

The person serving the notice will take a photograph of the person receiving such notice. In case service cannot be effected repeated attempts at different times of the day will be made, but if still service cannot be effected the notice will be pasted on the outer door of the addressee’s premises and photograph thereof be taken showing the locality and the actual residence of the addressee.

The commission required the services of the Punjab Forensic Science Agency in case the person making the statement regarding any audio recording denies that the same is his/her voice or states that the same has been manipulated/fabricated/ tampered. Whenever the concerned/ witness statement is being recorded an expert of such department/agency should be in attendance.

The attorney general was asked to provide four sets of the recordings [of audios] with accurate and verified transcripts duly verified and signed by a senior officer that the same is true and correct transcript of the recording.

The AGP was further directed to provide the names, addresses and contact details of all those mentioned in the transcript whose statement may be required to be recorded. The names of the persons shall be provided by or before Wednesday, 24 May 2023.

The commission said if any person who is not examined and/or who thinks that his/her interest may be adversely affected such person will be entitled to record his/her statement and on his/her request may be permitted to cross-examine the person making the statement.

At the onset of the proceeding, Justice Faez asked the attorney general to read the relevant provisions of the Act and the notification. It was clarified that the Commission is not the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) constituted under Article 209 of the Constitution.

The Commission will not be assuming the powers of the SJC and it will endeavour to perform its functions to the best of its ability as per the notification and in accordance with the Act. The commission’s proceedings will be held on Saturday (May 27) at 10 am.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023


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