CJP Seeks Independent Inquiry Into Allegations Of Interference, Intimidation, Surveillance Of Judges

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif says that if the federal cabinet approves the move, an independent inquiry commission headed by a retired judge will be formed.

CJP Seeks Independent Inquiry Into Allegations Of Interference, Intimidation, Surveillance Of Judges

Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa has categorically informed Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif that interference in the affairs of the judiciary by state institutions will not be tolerated under any circumstance. He has demanded the formation of an independent commission to probe the allegations by some judges of interference, intimidation, and surveillance.

Prime Minister Shehbaz, while endorsing the chief justice's opinion, has assured that he shall issue directions to draft legislation in light of the Faizabad Dharna Judgment, apart from seeking approval from the federal cabinet about forming the commission.

This was discussed during a meeting between Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif at the Supreme Court on Thursday afternoon. 

The meeting was held in the wake of an explosive letter by six judges of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) in which they detailed shocking details of how certain state actors were interfering in the workings of the judiciary at multiple levels, intimidating judges, and monitoring every move they and their families made.

According to a readout issued by the Supreme Court on Thursday afternoon, Prime Minister Shehbaz, accompanied by the Federal Law Minister Azam Nazir Tarar and Attorney General of Pakistan Mansoor Usman Awan, met with the CJP Isa, Senior Puisne Judge Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah and Supreme Court's Registrar at the Supreme Court.

In their meeting, which lasted for about an hour and a half, the chief justice laid out the depth of interference by the executive in the affairs and workings of the judiciary. 

The CJP expressed that such interference in the workings of judges will not be tolerated and that, under no circumstances, can the independence of the judiciary be allowed to be compromised. CJP Isa and Senior Puisne Judge Shah stated that the independence of the judiciary was a foundational pillar that upholds the rule of law and a strong democracy. 

During the meeting, it was proposed that an inquiry commission be formed under the Pakistan Commissions of Inquiry Act, 2017. The commission should be headed by a retired judge of "impeccable integrity" and investigate the matter. 

PM Shehbaz explained that a meeting of the federal cabinet will be called to seek 
their approval for constituting the commission. He further assured the CJP and the senior puisne judge that he would take other appropriate measures to ensure the independence of the judiciary, including the issuance of directions to the relevant departments for initiating legislation in accordance with paragraph 53 of Suo Moto No. 7/2017 (the Faizabad Dharna judgment).

Judges briefed

After the meeting with PM Shehbaz, the statement said that CJP Isa summoned a second meeting of the full court in two days, during which he briefed the judges on the outcomes of the meeting with the prime minister.

The statement added that after CJP Isa had received the letter from six judges of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday, the very same day, he summoned a meeting of the full court along with the chief justice and all other judges of the IHC after iftar at his residence, where the concerns of all the judges were heard individually. The meeting lasted for over two and a half hours. 

The statement said that on Wednesday, CJP Isa met with the Attorney General and the law minister. After that, the CJP and Justice Shah met with the president of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) and senior members of the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) present in Islamabad. 

A full court meeting of all the Supreme Court judges was summoned later that day to deliberate over the issues raised in the letter. During the meeting, a consensus was developed amongst the majority of the full court's members that, in view of the gravity of the situation, the CJP would meet with the prime minister and raise the issues mentioned in the letter. 

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