Attack on independence of judiciary will not be tolerated, says CJP Faez Isa

Attack on independence of judiciary will not be tolerated, says CJP Faez Isa

Islamabad (Web Desk): Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Faez Isa on Wednesday said that “any attack” on the judiciary’s independence will not be tolerated and the top court is taking the letter by Islamabad High Court (IHC) judges “very seriously”.

The CJP said this during the hearing of suo motu notice taken on the letter written by six IHC judges alleging intelligence agencies' ‘meddling in judicial affairs’.

A seven-member SC bench, led by CJP Qazi Faez Isa and comprising Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, Justice Yahya Afridi, Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel, Justice Athar Minallah, Justice Musarrat Hilali and Justice Naeem Akhtar Afghan, is hearing the case.

The SC conducted live proceedings of the hearing.

On March 26, the IHC judges including, Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kiyani, Justice Tariq Mehmood Jahangiri, Justice Babar Sattar, Justice Sardar Ejaz Ishaq Khan, Justice Arbab Muhammad Tahir, and Justice Saman Rafat Imtiaz, wrote the letter to the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC), urged the council to convene a judicial convention over the alleged interference of intelligence agencies in judicial affairs.

During today’s hearing, Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Usman Awan appeared before the SC along with Hamid Khan, who was present as ex-premier Imran Khan’s counsel. Ahmed Hussain appeared as Aitzaz’s lawyer.

Hamid informed the court that he had requested to be made a respondent in the case. At this, the CJP remarked that gone are the days when it was the chief justice’s will. “We have constituted a committee to fix cases for hearing”

The CJP said that the court had not received Hamid’s petition, adding that the committee would decide on the matter once the plea was received.

Justice Isa further said it was “inappropriate” that petitions were reported in the media before they were even filed.

“When we talk about pressure being exerted, is this also exerting pressure on us in a way?” the CJP remarked, adding that he never gave in to anyone’s pressure.

The CJP also expressed his displeasure at lawyers calling for a suo motu notice.

“The lawyers are saying to take a suo motu [notice]; then they should leave their practice.”

Justice Isa said that Hamid could not be considered a “representative of lawyers” as the president of a bar association was already present for that role.

The AGP then read out the press release issued by the SC after the meeting between the CJP and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on March 28.

CJP Faez Isa said that he met the IHC judges the day he received their letter. “If we had not given importance to this matter, then could this meeting not be held after Ramazan?” he asked.

The top judge then observed that a full court acted as an “administrative body and does not play a judicial function”.

Referring to his and Justice Shah’s meeting with PM Shehbaz, the CJP said he met the premier — who he said was the “state head as he received the most votes” from the National Assembly — as the “administrative head” of the SC. He added that the meeting was not a “chamber or at-house meeting” but an “official administrative” one.

AGP Awan highlighted that inappropriate comments were made on social media about the inquiry commission formed.

Noting that ex-CJP Nasirul Mulk’s name was also considered to head the body, the AGP recalled that PM Shehbaz had met Jillani, who said to decide whether to head the commission after reading the Terms of Reference (ToR).

Here, the CJP said, “If there is any kind of attack on the judiciary’s independence, I would be at the frontline and for sure, my fellow judges would be standing with me in this. And we never accept interference.

“If someone has another agenda to do so and so, then they may become the Supreme Court Bar president or the chief justice and enact his will. We will not tolerate pressure of this kind,” he added.
AGP Awan then said that an inquiry commission had “great powers”, including to initiate contempt of court proceedings. “An impression was given on media as if the federal government wanted to make a commission of its own wish,” he added.

Here, CJP Isa remarked, “Who can serve in such an environment? If a pious man is attacked, then he would go away and say ‘you handle this’.”

On March 30, the federal cabinet on approved the appointment of former chief justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani as the head of an inquiry commission tasked with probing the allegations levelled by

IHC judges regarding interference of intelligence agencies in judicial matters.

The development came after PM and CJP Qazi Faez Isa, during a meeting, agreed to investigate the matter.

However, on April 1, the SC took suo motu notice on the letter written by six Islamabad High Court (IHC) judges alleging the interference of intelligence agencies in judicial matters.

On the other hand, Former chief justice of Pakistan Tassaduq Hussain Jillani recused himself from heading the inquiry commission formed to probe the allegations levelled by six Islamabad High Court (IHC) judges regarding the intelligence agencies interference in judicial matters.

The decision by the former CJP came minutes after the SC took suo motu notice on IHC judges' letter.
In a letter addressed to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Justice (retd) Tassaduq Hussain Jillani said that he had gone through the letter by the IHC judges, the ToRs approved by the federal cabinet and Article 209.

Article 209 of the Constitution empowers the SJC to carry out inquiries into the capacity and conduct of Supreme Court and high court judges.

“Since the letter is addressed to the members of SJC and its chairman the chief justice of Pakistan, it would be violative of judicial propriety for me to inquire into a matter which may fall within the jurisdiction of a constitutional body which is the SJC or the Supreme Court of Pakistan itself,” he said.

The former CJP added that the ToRs for the inquiry were “strictly not germane to the subject matter of the letter”, noting that the IHC judges had asked the SJC for guidance.

“Towards the end the request made in the letter is for an ‘institutional consultation’ in terms of the mechanism suggested in the said letter. Though the letter in question may not strictly fall within the parameters of Article 209 of the Constitution, but the honourable chief justice of Pakistan being a paterfamilias may address and resolve the issues raised in the letter at the institutional level,” Justice (retd) Jillani said, adding that he was recusing himself from heading the commission.

On March 31, lawyers and civil society members, in a joint letter, had also urged the top court to take “cognisance of the matter in its jurisdiction under Article 184(3) of the Constitution as this issue eminently relates to public interest and to the enforcement of fundamental rights”.