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EDITORIAL: The discontent expressed by a group of 300 lawyers from across the country regarding the way the matter of the complaint of the six judges of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) has shaped up, reflects deep-seated concerns – and not just within the legal fraternity – about judicial independence and accountability of our state institutions.

The IHC judges had complained to the chief justice of Pakistan regarding interference by “members of the executive, including operatives of intelligence agencies” in the workings of the judiciary and had requested guidance from the Supreme Judicial Council on how judges should respond when faced with pressures from the state’s executive arm.

While many had hoped that the judges’ complaint would result in the Supreme Court possibly taking suo motu notice of the issue, the apex court initially deferred to the government’s action of constituting a commission of inquiry which the government promptly did by announcing appointment of former chief justice of Pakistan Tassaduq Hussain Jillani to investigate the judges’ accusations, with the commission empowered to recommend action against any individual or department found culpable of any transgression.

In response to this turn of events, the leading lights of the country’s legal fraternity rejected the commission formed by the government, and in a letter to the Supreme Court urged it to take suo motu notice of the matter “under Article 184(3) … as this issue eminently relates to public interest and to the enforcement of fundamental rights”.

The letter also called for such proceedings to be telecast live and if any breach is proven, then those responsible to be held to account by the court. Justice Jillani too recused himself from heading the commission, citing that in his opinion that the terms of reference are not germane to the subject matter and also that since the letter of the honourable judges is addressed to the members of the Supreme Judicial Council and its chairman, the Chief Justice of Pakistan, it would be violative of judicial propriety for him to enquire into a matter which may fall within the jurisdiction of a constitutional body, which, in his opinion, is the either the Supreme Judicial Council or the apex court itself.

Accepting the demand that the apex court takes cognizance of the letter by the judges of the Islamabad High Court, the honourable Chief Justice of Pakistan announced that his court will proceed in the matter under Article 184(3) of the constitution.

Notwithstanding the reservations from some quarters as regards the composition and size of the bench, the decision needs to be welcomed particularly when viewed in the context of our history as regards commissions of enquiry and the fact that the findings are at best, even if made public, recommendatory and not binding on the executive branch whereas a decision by the court would have to be obeyed.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024


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KU Apr 03, 2024 12:06pm
We all know the history of exploitation by political dynasties and we also know the power of fear. Damage control is afoot and justice is of least importance. Only problem is, people are watching.
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