SC Holds Full-Court Hearing On Surveillance, Intimidation Of Judges

Lawyers' bodies call for a probe into concerns raised by six judges of the IHC in a letter to the Supreme Judicial Council

SC Holds Full-Court Hearing On Surveillance, Intimidation Of Judges

The Supreme Court on Wednesday held a full-court meeting in response to a letter written by six judges of the Islamabad High Court. The letter alleged interference, intimidation, and surveillance of judges, among other actions that severely impair the independence of the judiciary.

The letter was addressed to Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa in his capacity as the chairman of the Supreme Judicial Council, urging him to take notice of the grave issues where surveillance equipment was discovered in the home of a judge while another's brother-in-law was abducted and coerced.

Lawyers demand probe

Meanwhile, various lawyers' bodies at all levels demanded a probe into the concerns expressed by the IHC judges.

Pakistan Bar Council (PBC), the country's apex body of lawyers, has summoned its executive committee to meet on April 5 to consider the matter raised by the six judges of the Islamabad High Court (IHC).

Different sections of the legal fraternity have made similar calls, demanding a probe into allegations made by six judges.

Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan's (SCBAP) Additional Secretary Sardar Shahbaz Ali Khosa wrote on Wednesday an open letter to CJP Isa, urging him to take suo motu notice of the matter and conduct a thorough and transparent (live) hearing of the case.

"The judiciary must be a safe haven for the pursuit of justice, untouched by the shadow of coercion, fear, or undue influence," Khosa said.

He urged CJP Isa to summon prominent journalists from across Pakistan to detail the extent of interference and coercion the free press has faced daily.

The SCBAP official urged the top judge to summon a meeting of the SJC on this issue to ascertain a way forward and affix responsibilities.

"The SCBA of Pakistan, alongside lawyers and bar associations across the nation, will and must stand ready to support our judiciary in upholding the rule of law," the open letter stated.

Similarly, the IHC Bar Association (IHCBA) demanded that CJP Isa hold a transparent inquiry into the matter and take legal action against those involved.

A statement issued by the IHCBA after an emergency meeting of its cabinet on Wednesday condemned the details of a state institution's interference in the affairs of another institution.

It further demanded that the "judiciary ensure independent decisions according to the law and the Constitution without fear or danger". 

It also commended the six IHC judges for their "courage and bravery".

The association said that if needed, it would prove to be a vanguard for the judiciary's independence and would take every step needed for the supremacy of the Constitution and the law.

"The IHCBA would not even hesitate from holding a lawyers representative convention, countrywide lawyers convention, strike, hunger strike and running a movement if needed for the judiciary's independence," it offered.

The Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA) also demanded immediate action against security agencies and personnel allegedly involved in such nefarious activities.

LHCBA also demanded immediate action by the SJC against judges who cooperated with such intelligence agencies and harmed the administration of justice.

The LHCBA condemned the alleged interference as a serious threat to the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary.

The association noted that both CJP Isa and former CJP Umar Ata Bandial had failed to act promptly to avert this grave situation.

It further said that the IHC CJ had failed to protect his fellow judges and the judges of the subordinate judiciary. 

Likewise, the Sindh High Court Bar Association (SHCBA) demanded that a judicial commission, comprising three Supreme Court judges, be formed to investigate and probe the allegations and take firm steps to stop such interference.

In a resolution passed after an urgent meeting of its managing committee, the SHCBA called for institutional mechanisms to safeguard the judiciary's independence. These include measures to protect judges from threats and external influence and strengthen accountability mechanisms within the judiciary.

The Balochistan Bar Council also called on CJP Isa to take a suo motu notice of the allegations. In a statement, the council expressed concerns over the matter and said the alleged interference in judicial matters was "condemnable and unacceptable in any circumstances".

The bar council also demanded that the Pakistan Bar Council convene a conference of lawyer representatives from across the country to decide on a plan of action against this "intrusion of privacy" of judges.

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