Web DeskPublished: 26 May 2023 at 11:00 | Updated: 26 May 2023 at 13:45
Supreme Court Halts Proceedings of Judicial Commission Investigating Judiciary Audio Leaks
In a significant development, the Supreme Court of Pakistan has ordered the stay of proceedings of a high-powered judicial commission formed to investigate audio leaks related to the judiciary. The court also suspended the federal government's notification regarding the constitution of the commission. The order was issued by a five-member bench headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, which included Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Syed Hasan Azhar Rizvi, and Justice Shahid Waheed.
The decision came in response to separate petitions filed by various parties, including Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) President Abid Shahid Zuberi, SCBA Secretary Muqtedir Akhtar Shabbir, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan, and Advocate Riaz Hanif Rahi. These petitions requested the court to declare the formation of the commission illegal.
During the hearing, the SCBA president's lawyer highlighted that the commission had already commenced its proceedings and issued an order on May 22, stating that its proceedings would be made public. The next meeting of the commission was scheduled for May 27.
The court order stated, "In the circumstances, till the next date of hearing, the operation of the impugned notification No.SRO.596(I)/2023 dated 19.05.2023 issued by the Federal Government is suspended as is the order dated 22.05.2023 made by the Commission and in consequence thereof proceedings of the Commission are stayed."
The federal government had recently established a three-member judicial commission, chaired by a senior judge of the Supreme Court, Justice Qazi Faez Isa. The commission also included Islamabad High Court Chief Justice Aamer Farooq and Balochistan High Court Chief Justice Naeem Akhtar Afghan. Its purpose was to investigate the authenticity of the audio leaks and their potential impact on the independence of the judiciary.
During the hearing, Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Usman Awan requested the Chief Justice to recuse himself from the case and hand it over to the next senior-most judge. However, Chief Justice Bandial defended the court's authority and emphasized the separation of powers between the judiciary and the government.
The judicial commission was established to probe several audio leaks, including conversations between politicians, lawyers, judges, and other individuals discussing various legal matters and court proceedings.
This development puts a temporary halt to the commission's proceedings and raises questions about the legality and constitutionality of its formation, as determined by the Supreme Court.
The commission was notified to investigate the following audio leaks: