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Pakistan

CJP forms larger bench to hear pleas against commission probing audio leaks

  • Five-man bench includes CJP Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Syed Hasan Azhar Rizvi, and Justice Shahid Waheed
Published May 25, 2023

Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Justice Umar Ata Bandial on Thursday formed a five-judge larger bench to take up petitions against the formation of a three-member judicial inquiry commission probing the audio leaks, Aaj News reported.

Apart from the chief justice, the five-man bench includes Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Syed Hasan Azhar Rizvi, and Justice Shahid Waheed.

Last week, the federal government established a three-member judicial commission, led by Supreme Court senior puisne judge Justice Qazi Faez Isa, to investigate the validity of audio leaks allegedly involving current and former members of the superior judiciary and their family members.

The commission includes Balochistan High Court (BHC) Chief Justice Naeem Akhtar Afghan and Islamabad High Court (IHC) Chief Justice Aamer Farooq.

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”.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman and ex-premier Imran Khan had earlier objected to the formation of the commission, saying the Terms of Reference formed by the federal government suffer from a deliberate omission.

In a detailed thread, the former premier explained that the Terms of Reference fail to take into account the issue that "who is behind unlawful and unconstitutional surveillance of the prime minister's office and sitting judges of the Supreme Court."

"Who are these actors who are above the law and outside the command of even the prime minister of the country, and who resort to such illegal surveillance with impunity? Such elements need to be held and identified by the Commission."

"The Commission should be empowered to investigate who are these powerful and unknown elements who tap and record telephone conversations of citizens including high public functionaries," Imran wrote.

"This is a serious breach of privacy guaranteed under Article 14 of the Constitution," he added.

Background

In March, an audio leak purported to be of a telephone conversation between Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Fawad Chaudhry and his brother Advocate Faisal Chaudhry emerged. In the alleged conversation between Fawad and Faisal, the names of three judges - Chief Justice Lahore High Court Muhammad Ameer Bhatti, Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial, and Justice Mazahar Ali Naqvi - were mentioned.

Later, an alleged phone call between CJP Bandial’s mother-in-law and the PTI counsel’s wife was leaked online. In the purported audio, the two women can be heard discussing early elections, their support for the chief justice, and their resentment towards the incumbent government.

The two women also talk about their concern for the chief justice amid the ongoing election delay case which is being heard by a three-member bench at the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

They also vaguely discuss being in a Lahore rally where there were hundreds of thousands of people.

Recently, Justice Bandial said the audio and video leaks in social media have no authenticity.

Meanwhile, the government has also demanded a forensic audit of an alleged phone call and said that the judges mentioned in the audio should step down.

Comments

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Love Your Country May 25, 2023 09:08pm
The judiciary is fully exposed; we need a strong judicial system that takes the country forward, what we have got is what we had back in 50s.
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