Islamabad: The hearing of the case against the Audio Leaks Inquiry Commission headed by Justice Faiz Isa is going on in Supreme Court today (Tuesday).
According to details, a five-member bench headed by Chief Justice Umar Atta Bandial is hearing the case, including Justice Ijaz-ul-Hassan, Justice Muneeb Akhtar, Justice Hasan Azhar Rizvi and Justice Shahid Waheed.
The bench had already barred the commission from proceeding as Chief Justice said on the last hearing that court did not invalidate the commission. However, federal government had raised an objection against the bench.
When the hearing started today, the petitioner said that the contempt petition against the Audio Leaks Inquiry Commission has not been decided yet.
To which CJP responded: “The matter of contempt is between the court and the insulter, the court will also look into the contempt petition and the objections to the contempt petition should be removed”.
When Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Usman Awan came to the rostrum, he told the court that he will talk about the conflict of personal interest of the judges in a case.
Umar Atta Bandial replied that there is something missing in your petition. Chief Justice is a constitutional office which has its own powers, if he is not present, then the Acting Chief Justice works, therefore the contempt of court application will be considered after the objections are over.
He continued stating: “The judge cannot be made a party to the contempt of court petition, Mr. Attorney General, or cannot be asked to leave the bench by accusing the Chief Justice”.
“The powers cannot be reduced by accusing the Chief Justice or the judge. He only appoints his acting position in his absence,” stated Bandial.
Attorney General said in the first part of our petition, the federal government has raised objection on the bench hearing the case against the formation of the inquiry commission.
CJP Bandial inquired the AGP: “How can you discuss the assumption that the interests of two judges including the Chief Justice are related in the case”?
The executive should not interfere with the powers of the Supreme Court, we were not even asked before forming the inquiry commission, judges cannot be objected on the basis of mere allegations, he clarified.
Meanwhile, the Attorney General referred to the decisions of the Supreme Court regarding the personal interest of the judges.
Addressing the AGP, Justice Muneeb Akhtar said, first you should argue the admissibility of your application and tell about the TORs of the inquiry commission.
He asked if the government's point is about the originality of the audios are original, or it is inquiring if the audios are verified and correct.
Attorney General said that the government has called the audios as allegations and set up a commission to investigate.
Justice Muneeb asked if it is true that hacker leaked the audios and the ministers made it public by holding a press conference.
He further said that Federal Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah held a press conference related to audio leaks. Muneeb Akhtar inquired if it was a matter related to him. Can audios be publicized in the media without investigation?
Mansoor Awan said that Article 4 of the Code of Conduct of Judges states that they should not hear cases related to close relatives and friends.
Justice Akhtar said before it was decided that audios were original or not, government gave its decision by making them public. He asked if presser should have held without investigations.
“Prime Minister should have come and said he does not own the ministers' press conference,” he added. As per law, can a government official accuse the judge without knowing the truth?
Attorney General said that a minister's press conference cannot be called a cabinet decision or statement, it has to be seen whether the ministers' statements are before or after May 9.
Justice Muneeb Akhtar said that if the minister speaks of his own will, then it will be a statement of the cabinet. If the ministers have said everything in the press conferences, then what is the status of the petition?
He added that after May 9, the government established an inquiry commission.
Chief Justice asked if government used its resources to find out where and how the audios were recorded. The Attorney General said: “Government had formed a commission to investigate the audios and therefore, it wanted the inquiry commission to investigate all the audios”.
CJP Bandial said that what a unique and beautiful justice it is to accuse the judges of the apex court, is it fair to accuse the judges in this way?
Attorney General said: “I would defend the stand of the cabinet and not any individual minister”.
Chief Justice said that he will ask media and PEMRA for an answer as to how the accusations against the judges were publicized. Holy Quran also forbids accusing anyone.
Did you inquire about 'Indie Bell'? Find out if this Twitter handle is operating from the country or from abroad?
Justice Muneeb Akhtar said that anyone can spread false news against the judges by calling the hacker 'Indie Bell', it is not like that someone raises objection and the judge leaves the bench, there are also negative aspects of social media.
Attorney General said: “The leaked audios are related to the mother-in-law of Chief Justice. Muneeb Akhtar asked whether it is your case at this time that the audios are correct”.
He added that federal government has just formed a commission on this matter, it is not known whether the audios are of WhatsApp calls or phone calls.
Justice Muneeb Akhtar said the executive interfered in the distribution of powers, now the government is saying that these judges should not hear the case. The collective responsibility of the cabinet should have come forward.
Mansoor said what I am stating here is the opinion of the Federation and the Government.
Justice Muneeb Akhtar said that if the finance minister makes a statement on the economy, it will not be a policy statement of the government? Is the policy of the government and the statements of the ministers not the same? Was the decision of the seven-member bench in Benazir case 1996 wrong? The decisions of the Supreme Court regarding Article 4 are clear, Ms. Benazir's government ended in 1996, during her tenure, the judiciary and senior officials were accused of recording calls.
AGP said the President's powers were in question in this case. Justice Muneeb Akhtar said that the bench did not object in the Benazir case.
Attorney General said that this case of the federal government is not at all that the case involves the malice of the judges, the federal government is not biased, it is a conflict of interest, how the calls were recorded, all the factors will be reviewed by the commission.
Justice Akhtar stated that times have changed now, an electronic device is connected to all of us, the government and you have immense respect, and the judicial precedents you are giving are old.
Chief Justice of Pakistan said that apart from me, you have objected two more judges, do you want to object to all of them in turn, is this objection made only on judicial proceedings or is it also on the execution of administrative affairs?
The arguments regarding the objection on the Attorney General's bench have been completed and the arguments of petitioner Abid Zubairi’s lawyer Shoaib Shaheen began.
Lawyer Shoaib said the cerdict Attorney General is referring to was a minority opinion, even if there is an objection to a judge, there is no prohibition to hear the case on him, the government is the plaintiff in all cases including elections and wants to form a bench by itself.
It is pertinent to note that federal government had formed a three-member judicial commission on the issue of audio leaks. The commission headed by the senior-most judge of the Supreme Court, Justice Qazi Faiz Isa, includes the chief justices of Balochistan High Court and Islamabad High Court.
The commission has to investigate the audio leaks regarding the judiciary, whether these audio leaks are genuine or fabricated, the commission has to investigate.
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