Govt objects to CJP Bandial’s inclusion in audio leaks commission
- CJP says formation of commission “interferes in the judiciary’s internal matters”
The Government of Pakistan on Friday objected to inclusion of Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial in the five-member bench formed to hear cases challenging the formation of a judicial commission tasked to probe audio leaks involving the judiciary.
During a hearing of the case, Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Usman Awan asked CJP Bandial to excuse himself, inviting a stronger reaction from the top judge.
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“It is requested that the chief justice should not be a part of this bench,” AGP Awan said.
On the other hand, CJP Bandial observed that the formation of the commission “interfered in the judiciary’s internal matters”.
Responding to the AGP, the chief justice said “you should not interfere with our administrative authority”.
“The judiciary is the protector of basic human rights. We fully respect the government.”
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He said that there were errors in the notification issued by the government for the formation of the commission.
“The constitution gives complete freedom to the judiciary,” he remarked. “The investigation that was supposed to be conducted by the institutions was entrusted to judges.”
Bandial further said, “we have no other structure but the power of morality and justice.”
The court then reserved its verdict on the petitions and said that an appropriate order would be issued later during the day.
The bench comprised CJP Bandial, Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Syed Hasan Azhar Rizvi and Justice Shahid Waheed.
The commission, headed by Justice Qazi Faez Isa, was formed on May 20 under Section 3 of the Pakistan Commission of Inquiry Act 2017 and is required to conclude the task within a month.
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 “[email protected]_”. 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.