SC Clarifies Letter Seeking Exemption For Spouses of Judges From Body Search At Airports

SC registrar explains that the leaked letter only pointed out an anomaly and asked the government to resolve it, noting that CJP Isa's wife was subjected to a body search while travelling abroad

SC Clarifies Letter Seeking Exemption For Spouses of Judges From Body Search At Airports

The Supreme Court on Monday explained that it had not sought an exemption from body search for spouses of serving judges from the suprerior judiciary at airports. Instead, its leaked letter pointed out an anomaly and asked the government to resolve it.

It further raised questions on the timing of the letter being leaked to the media.

The Supreme Court's Registrar Office on Monday wrote to the Aviation Division Secretary Saif Anjum and Airport Security Force (ASF) Director General Major-General Adnan Asif Jah Shad, about a letter the top court had written to them on September 21, 2023, in which exemption from body search was reportedly sought for spouses of Supreme Court judges and was leaked to the media the other day.

In its letter on Monday, the Supreme Court (SC) clarified that it had not sought an exemption, rather, it had only pointed out an anomaly that spouses of retired judges are exempt from a body search by ASF personnel at airports across the country, but the spouse of serving judges are not granted the same facility.

The SC registrar expressed surprise that the letter had emerged so soon after Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa, along with his wife, Serena Isa, departed the country for winter vacations.

"This is with reference to your letter of October 12, 2023, which surprisingly found its way to the media immediately after Justice Qazi Faez Isa and his wife left Pakistan for Turkiye during the Supreme Court's winter vacations," the top court's clarification stated. 

It noted that the letter emerged in the public domain with "coincidentally interesting timing" around 66 days after it was written. 

"In the interest of full disclosure, kindly also disclose the Registrar of the Supreme Court's letter of September 21, 2023, to correct the misconceptions."

The SC also released its September 21 letter.

"The body search exemption rule was not made by the Supreme Court nor was exemption sought," the registrar's letter stated. 

The letter noted that the government had resolved the anomaly but provided no explanation for the matter. 

"Neither the ASF nor the government of Pakistan is concerned about the 
security breach."

The SC registrar further said that body search exemption cards for spouses [of judges] "have not been received."

Dispelling perceptions that CJP Isa and his wife were exempted from a body search, the top court stated they underwent the security procedures normally.

"Departing from Pakistan on December 16, 2023, Mrs. Isa herself went into the cubicle of the ASF and was searched by a lady officer; the recording by cameras installed at the airport will confirm this; no exemption sought, nor given."

It added that CJP Isa was offered the use of the VIP lounge at the Islamabad International Airport, but he declined the offer.

"Justice Isa also declined the use of the luxury limousine, which drives VIPs right up to the aircraft."

The writer is an Islamabad based journalist working with The Friday Times. He tweets @SabihUlHussnain