IHC Justice Babar Sattar Dismisses Pleas Seeking His Recusal In Audio Leaks Case

Justice Sattar has also imposed fines of Rs500,000 each on the FIA, PTA, and Pemra.

IHC Justice Babar Sattar Dismisses Pleas Seeking His Recusal In Audio Leaks Case

Islamabad High Court’s (IHC) Justice Babar Sattar Monday came down hard on PEMRA, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), and the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) as he heard the audio leaks case, also questioning whether the FIA is a proxy of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

Justice Sattar has dismissed the applications of PEMRA, FIA, and PTA, wherein they sought the judge's recusal from a case regarding audio leaks.

Justice Sattar has also imposed fines of Rs500,000 each on the FIA, PTA, and Pemra, along with dismissing their applications while hinting at initiating contempt proceedings against them.

Justice Sattar is one of the six judges who wrote a letter to the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) against the alleged interference of intelligence agencies in the judiciary.

Justice Sattar is also subject to a severe malicious campaign on social media. However, the IHC denounced a malicious and contemptuous social media campaign, saying Justice Sattar's green card and properties in Pakistan and the USA were declared, scrutinized, and cleared before his appointment as a judge.

He has been hearing the petitions by former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s wife, Bushra Bibi, and Najam Saqib, son of former chief justice of Pakistan Saqib Nisar, against alleged audio leaks.

Najam Saqib had challenged the inquiry of a parliamentary committee on his alleged audio in which he purportedly sought a bribe, while Bushra Bibi had challenged an FIA inquiry based on her alleged conversation with Zulfi Bukhari, a former aide to then-PM Imran, for selling Toshakhana gifts.

The Intelligence Bureau (IB) had also filed an application seeking Justice Sattar's recusal, on which the latter summoned the former's joint director, Tariq Mehmood, at the next hearing.

During the course of the instant hearing, Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Usman Awan appeared before the court while Aitzaz Ahsan was present for the court’s legal assistance.

During the hearing, Additional Attorney General (AAG) Munawar Iqbal Duggal informed the court that FIA has sought reconstitution of the bench in view of six IHC judges letter.

Justice Sattar has observed that the filing of miscellaneous applications, seeking to transfer the case to another bench, was aimed at humiliating court proceedings.

Justice Sattar questioned how the letter is related to FIA. He further questioned what FIA has to do with the matter of ISI.

He directed the AAG to read the relevant excerpt of the letter.

Following this, Justice Sattar observed that the judges expressed their support for the claims made by IHC Justice (rtd) Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui and for a probe into them.

Justice Sattar asked AAG if the part of the letter that the latter read was related to the ISI and not the FIA. The AAG responded in the affirmative.

Recalling that one of the applications stated that judges had complained, Justice Sattar asked how this was a complaint.

He further added that Justice (r) Siddiqui had made allegations, and other judges are supporting them.

He remarked that the IHC judges’ letter was about the ISI and not the FIA, further questioning, "Does the FIA have any connection with fixing hidden cameras in judges’ houses?”

The AAG submitted that they have no connection, adding that he brought up the matter as one of the applications had mentioned the 'agencies’ role'.

Justice Sattar questioned whether it would be a conflict of interest for the judges if the executive blackmails judges.

He further told AAG, How would you define conflict of interest?

Dismissing the FIA's petition seeking his recusal with an imposition of Rs500,000, Justice Sattar again wondered and questioned if the FIA had any connection with even a single matter mentioned in the judges’ letter.

The AAG Duggal said the FIA does not have any connection.

On this, Justice Sattar questioned, How can the FIA file a miscellaneous application asking me not to hear the case?

During the hearing, Justice Sattar also summoned an IB official and asked him for whose approval the bureau had filed the application.

The AAG responded that the IB’s joint director, Tariq Mehmood, had given the approval.

However, the response could not satisfy the court. Justice Sattar summoned the IB’s Joint Director for the next hearing.

Justice Sattar also dismissed Pemra’s and PTA’s petitions along with fines, warning that the court could also initiate contempt proceedings against the “authorities of all these institutions,"  including Pemra’s chairman and members.

Lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan, who was appearing as amicus curie, appreciated the court’s decision and said that it had made him stand tall.

Justice Sattar directed Ahsan to assist the court on the next hearing, saying that he could also submit a written submission on the matter.

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