SC rejects PDM's objections to bench hearing pleas against audio leaks commission

SC rejects PDM's objections to bench hearing pleas against audio leaks commission
Source: File

Islamabad (Web Desk): The Supreme Court (SC) on Friday rejected former Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) government’s objections on a five-member bench led by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial hearing a set of pleas against the constitution of a commission set up to probe the audio leaks.

The five-member larger bench of the top court, headed by CJP Bandial and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsen, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Syed Hassan Azhar Rizvi and Justice Shahid Waheed, was formed earlier in May this year to hear pleas against the then government's move to form inquiry commission formed on May 20 under Section 3 of the Pakistan Commission of Inquiry Act 2017. 

The commission was led by senior Judge Qazi Faez Isa and comprising Balochistan High Court Chief Justice Naeem Akhtar Afghan and Islamabad High Court Chief Justice Aamer Farooq to probe audio leaks involving the SC judges. 

The SC on May 26 issued the verdict to restrain the panel from going ahead with its task. 

The order was passed on a set of petitions moved by Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) President Abid Shahid Zuberi and others including Pakistan Tehreek-e-nsaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan seeking to declare the constitution of the audio commission illegal.

Then, the government-app­ointed commission decided to put its proceedings on hold until the top court’s decision on the petitions.

Subsequently, the then PDM government filed a civil miscellaneous application (CMA) in the apex court requesting that CJP Bandial, Justice Ahsan and Justice Akhtar to distance themselves from the bench since “rules of natural justice” demanded that the “adjudicator should be impartial”.

Citing the fact that one of the leaked audios before the inquiry commission was related to the CJP’s family member, “contributes to and raises grave concerns vis-a-vis appearance of impartiality”, the application had alleged.

Moreover, it added that the alleged audio leak is also related to Justice Ahsan and Justice Munib.

Punjab's former chief justice Parvez Elahi's audio mentions Justice Ahsan, while the audio between the two women mentioned Justice Munib, the application contended reasons for why these two judges should recuse themselves.

SC reserved the verdict on the then government's petition on June 6. 

The top court rejected the objections raised by the previous government and termed them as “tantamount to attack on independence of judiciary".

During the hearing, CJP Bandial had asked if the government, with all its resources, had ever taken any step to find out who was beh­ind the audio leaks, particularly when such clips were being released through the Twitter handle of a hacker.

“From where and how are these audio leaks coming forward and who is behind all this,” the CJP remarked.

At this, Attorney General for Pakis­tan (AGP) Mansoor Usman Awan argued that to put all such issues at rest, the federal government had intentionally wanted that the three-judge commission und­e­r­take this exercise by probing all these aspects.

He had added the government’s plea for reconstitution of the five-member SC bench was not related to “bias” on part of any judge, but due to “conflict of interest”.