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EDITORIAL: A major issue in this country has been visible and invisible pressures that keep the judiciary from upholding the fundamental right to a fair trial, especially in cases of political nature.

Last March, six serving judges of the Islamabad High Court wrote a letter to the Supreme Judicial Council of Pakistan, seeking guidance for dealing with what they alleged was “brazen interference” in judicial matters by operatives of intelligence agencies. Considering the gravity of their grievance, the apex court has taken it up in suo motu proceedings.

Meanwhile, Justice Babar Sattar, one of the six signatories to the famous letter, hearing the audio leaks case had issued notices to heads of intelligence and investigation agencies, including the ISI, IB and FIA and relevant officials of the defence ministry. This, according to the honourable justice, has led to a malicious media campaign against him, including data leak compromising the privacy of his family.

In a fresh missive to the Chief Justice of IHC made public on Tuesday, he wrote “…during the hearing of the case [audio leaks] I was delivered messages on behalf of top officials in the security establishment asking me to ‘back off’ from extensive scrutiny of the existence and mode of surveillance.” He paid no heed to “such intimidatory tactics”, he added, “and did not find that such message created a risk of substantial detriment to the administration of justice”.

Gone are the days when the first chief justice of Pakistan, Sir Mian Abdul Rashid, paying due deference to the principle of separation of powers declined invitation to an event where the then prime minister Liaquat Ali Khan was the host because cases of and against the federal government do come up before him and his court.

Soon after Justice Sattar’s letter appeared in public, Attorney General for Pakistan Mansoor Usman Awan followed by Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar deemed it necessary to publicly offer clarification.

Claiming that the judge “misunderstood” the message as an act of interference said the AGP, since some “sensitive matters” of the state regarding internal and external security surveillance were involved, a request was made (by the military intelligence agency) through his office for an in-camera briefing. These assertions have no leg to stand on.

For, the AGP’s is a constitutional office whose function is to counsel the government and to assist the court. It is not its function to render messenger service for any department or organisation of the executive. If the concerned organisation had reasons for seeking proceedings of the case in point in-camera, the proper way for it was to make a written application through its legal counsel in the case to the bench concerned.

The government has no business playing the role of an intermediary between courts and defendants/plaintiffs, whoever they might be.

Unfortunately, there exists a tendency on the part of executive to blur the line that must separate it from the judicial branch of the state.

During the eighties, Gen Ziaul Haq’s regime appointed sitting judges of high courts as secretaries of the law division so as to act as a messenger for communicating with other serving judges.

Although the practice stopped after decades, attempts to put pressure on courts via other means for the furtherance of certain interests, as the present case shows, have not. The inexcusable reaction to such challenges to judicial independence, both at individual and institutional levels, is to ignore them.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

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KU May 20, 2024 11:22am
It should read, 'Safeguarding judicial independence n people's rights'. The present leadership is famous for destruction of every public org. n law for their benefit, while people suffer injustice
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KU May 20, 2024 11:28am
The people suffer inhumane treatment n rights violation due to misuse of British era laws in the hands of our corrupt police n agencies. Not a single legislation on amending these laws been witnessed.
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