Supreme Court Fires Back Over Anti-CJP Qzi Faez Isa Campaign

In a press release, the top court says running a campaign targeting judges or the courts under the guise of criticism without adopting the constitutional route of review violates rights under Article 19

Supreme Court Fires Back Over Anti-CJP Qzi Faez Isa Campaign

The Supreme Court on Thursday fired back at a concerted campaign that has been raging against Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa on various mediums for the past few days.

Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa has been the subject of a vicious campaign in recent days where he was accused of becoming partisan and siding with members of the Ahmadiyya Community by granting bail to a man in a 2022 case. In the five-page judgement from last week, which only became the subject of criticism on social media this week — including a video message from Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman — CJP Isa had granted bail the plaintiff who had been accused of publishing and distributing a proscribed book linked to the Ahmadiyya faith, the  Tafseer-e-Sagheer. 

The court had ruled that the plaintiff was charged under Sections 298-C and 295-B of the Pakistan Penal Code (charges of blasphemy), but neither the FIR nor the challan filed by the police show the plaintiff had committed the offences for which he was charged under the cited sections. Moreover, it noted that the plaintiff had been charged under sections of the law which came into effect in 2021 even though the actions he was being prosecuted for allegedly took place in 2019. With the court deleting multiple sections from the charge sheet, the relevant section under which the plaintiff should have been charged prescribed a maximum punishment of six months. However, he had already spent twice that time in detention awaiting adjudication.

In the press release issued on Thursday, the Supreme Court addressed the specific issues and criticisms of the verdict.

The court noted that "incorrect reporting of a decision of the Supreme Court in the electronic, print and social media is causing misconceptions and a perception is being created as if Supreme Court has violated the Second Amendment (definition of a "Muslim") and "crimes against religion" and has asked to eliminate the relevant legal provisions."

The court explained the reasons for its verdict, adding that the plaintiff was granted bail per "Islamic injunctions, constitutional provisions and the law".

The apex court further offered that if anyone believes that any mistake has been made in representing the Islamic principle or any constitutional or legal provision in a verdict, then they must point them out by following the set legal procedure. 

"The Supreme Court has not stopped anyone from filing a review petition in the past, nor will it do so in the future<" the release stated.

The Supreme Court further outlined a line for criticisms of its judgements. It noted that there is no bar on criticising judgements of the top court but reminded that these criticisms should be expressed in a "reasonable manner". 

"But to criticise without adopting the constitutional path of a review or to run a campaign against judges or the judiciary on the pretext of criticism is regrettable and violates the principle of free speech enshrined under Article 19 of the Constitution," the top court fired. 

It warned that such criticism could damage a constitutional pillar of state, which is responsible for protecting the constitutional rights of the people.

PBC condemns campaign against CJP Isa

The Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) on Thursday strongly condemned the "malicious and slanderous campaign" against Chief Justice Isa.

In a statement on Thursday, PBC Vice-Chairman Riazat Ali Sahar and Executive Committee Chairman Farooq Hamid Naek stated that the campaign was designed to bring the Supreme Court into disrepute and make the Chief Justice of Pakistan vulnerable by deliberately attempting to distort a decision of the apex court.

"The court's decision can't be allowed to be used for political gains, and some elements have used completely false and forged information to incite violence and hatred," the statement read. 

The PBC demanded that "urgent and robust action" be taken against all those involved in the "dangerous and nefarious campaign, to malign the judicial system and create mistrust upon judges so as to erode the independence of Judiciary which is tantamount to creating obstacles in the progress of Pakistan and tarnishing the image of Pakistan."

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