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ISLAMABAD: A five-judge bench of the Supreme Court will hear constitutional petitions against the formation of the Judicial Commission to probe the audio leaks today (Friday).

A five-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Syed Hasan Azhar Rizvi, and Justice Shahid Waheed will take up petitions of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan, Supreme Court Bar Association President Abid Shahid Zuberi, SCBA Secretary General Muqtedir Akhtar Shabbir, and advocate Riaz Hanif Rahi.

The petitions were filed under Article 184(3) to declare the notification and constitution of the Inquiry Commission to probe into the veracity of alleged audio leaks as ultra vires to the constitution.

Meanwhile, the Inquiry Commission has issued notices to four persons who are allegedly found having conversation in the audio leaks for May 27. They include SCBA President Abid Zuberi, senior advocate Khawaja Tariq Rahim, journalist Abdul Qayyum Siddiqui, and Najam Saqib, son of former chief justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar.

Abid Zuberi in his petition mentioned whether surveillance of citizens of Pakistan through “phone tapping or interception” is permissible under the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973 and whether the same is violative of Article(s) 9, 14, 18, 19 & 25 r/w 4 thereof?

He also questioned whether any undated alleged audio leaks uploaded on or disseminated through unidentified/untraceable social media accounts could be relied upon for any legal proceedings and whether the said alleged audio leaks could be enquired into through a commission formed under The Pakistan Commissions of Inquiry Act, 2017 to determine the liability of persons named in the alleged audio leaks.

He stated that on 16.02.2023, three alleged snippets of audio recordings of telephonic conversations were uploaded on a Twitter account with the handle “indibell@indibell_”. These three audio recordings were allegedly between (1) an Advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan with Ex-Chief Minister Punjab, Pervez Elahi, (2) Petitioner and Ex-Chief Minister Punjab, Pervez Elahi, and (3) a serving judge of the apex court and Ex-Chief Minister Punjab, Pervez Elahi.

He submitted that the said recordings were given wide coverage in the press and media. Subsequently, in the evening of 16.02.2023, a press conference was held by the interior minister of the Respondent No 1 in relation to the said alleged phone recordings. On the basis of these alleged audio recordings, insinuations were made that the ex-chief minister Punjab was attempting to influence judicial proceedings in the Supreme Court of Pakistan, however, there was complete silence regarding the legality, authenticity, source and manner of recording of such alleged audios.

The petitioner stated that on the same day, the petitioner promptly issued a press statement dated 16.02.2023 bearing reference no PRE/SCBAP/503 on the letterhead of his office i.e. President, Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan categorically stating that the audio recording mentioned at Serial No 2 in paragraph 1 of this petition is doctored.

Thereafter, references were filed before the Supreme Judicial Council in relation to the alleged audio recording mentioned at Serial No 3 at Paragraph 1 of this Petition against the judge who has been allegedly recorded in the said audio. Such references are presently pending adjudication.

PTI Chairman Imran Khan on May 22 filed the petition requesting that the top court declare the government’s notification [for the constitution of judicial commission] as “ultra vires to the Constitution”. It further prayed that “a judicial commission may kindly be constituted in the light of judgment passed” by the SC regarding the “illegal phone tapping…to meet the interest of justice”.

It further questioned what the effect of the formation of the commission by the federal government was, “without taking into consideration of the provision of Article 175(3) as well as the judgment delivered in Sharaf Faridi and others, where under the judiciary stands separated from the Executive for all purposes and intents”.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023


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