Monday, May 22, 2023

Proceedings of audio leaks commission to be made public

Justice Faez Isa says commission has been set up "only to determine facts"

Justice Qazi Faez Isa, Justice Naeem Akhtar Afghan and Justice Aamer Farooq. —official websites
Justice Qazi Faez Isa, Justice Naeem Akhtar Afghan and Justice Aamer Farooq. —official websites

  • Judicial panel probing audio leaks starts investigations.
  • Commission includes Justice Qazi Faez Isa, Justice Aamer Farooq, Justice Naeem Akhtar Afghan.
  • Notices to be issued to all concerned for Saturday.

ISLAMABAD: The high-powered judicial commission formed to probe the audio leaks related to the judiciary announced on Monday that the proceedings of its inquiry will be made public. 

The commission — headed by SC judge Justice Qazi Faez Isa and comprising Islamabad High Court Chief Justice Aamer Farooq and Balochistan High Court Chief Justice Naeem Akhtar Afghan — held its first hearing today in courtroom number 7 of the Supreme Court (SC).

Attorney General Mansoor Usman Awan also appeared before the three-member commission.

On Saturday, the federal government established the judicial panel and tasked it to complete the job within 30 days.

A notification issued by the cabinet division stated that the commission has been constituted in the wake of widely circulated controversial audios pertaining to the judiciary including the former chief justice and judges of the Supreme Court which raised “serious apprehensions about the independence, impartiality and uprightness of the Chief Justices/Judges of the Superior Courts in the administration of justice”.

The government said the audio leaks raised serious apprehensions about the independence of the judiciary in the public interest; therefore, it has constituted the commission under Section 3 of the Pakistan Commissions of the Inquiry Act, 2017.

Today's proceedings 

At the outset of today's proceedings, Justice Isa inquired: "Under which law the commission was formed?"

Attorney General Awan replied that the commission was constituted under the Commission of Inquiry Act, 2016.

The judicial commission then announced that it would make the proceedings public. However, it added that the commission could review any request for an in-camera session if any sensitive matter is brought to light.

"The proceedings of the commission will be held in the Supreme Court Islamabad building," Justice Isa instructed, adding, "It is our responsibility to appoint the secretary of the commission."

He further said that two elderly women were also included among those who have to be probed.

"If there is a request, the commission can also go to Lahore," he said. 

The commission then instructed the attorney general to provide mobile phones and SIM cards for the commission.

It was decided that the phone number will be made public.

The commission then directed the attorney general to appoint a relevant agency for the verification of the material.

"Punjab Forensic Science Agency (PFSA) can be contacted to verify the audio leaks, Justice Isa said.

Stressing that the commission has been set up "only to determine facts", the SC judge said: "If a person says that the voice in the audio is not theirs, or has been tampered with, it has to be verified beforehand." 

To this end, he instructed that a member of the forensic agency should be present during the proceedings so that if anyone refuses, there can be immediate verification.

Further emphasising the power and the limitations of the probe panel, he said that the commission would take no action against a judge.

"There will be no interference in the jurisdiction of the Supreme Judicial Council."

He also added: "The commission has the power to issue summons to those not complying with its orders."

However, the commission will only issue notices, Justice Isa said, adding that efforts would be made not to issue summons to anyone.

"Government officials do not have room for denial in advance," he said.

Moreover, on the matter of making the proceedings public, he said that an advertisement will be issued to provide information to the public.

He also added that the orders of the commission will be shared online.

"Every action of the commission should be shared on a website so that there is no confusion," the commission decided.

To this, AG Awan suggested that the updates be uploaded in PDF format so that no changes can be made.

"I have heard that there can be changes in the PDF as well," Justice Isa observed.

When the attorney general reassured the commission that the government had no intention of changing anything, the SC judge replied: "You can't even do it."

Later, the judicial commission directed AG Awan to issue notices to all parties concerned.

"If a party does not receive the notice, it should be posted outside its residence," the commission said. 

"After the notice is received by the concerned person, the proof should be provided in the form of a photograph or signature," Justice Isa instructed.

The commission further instructed AG Awan to submit the audios, and four copies of their certified transcript by Wednesday; the names, contact numbers and addresses of all persons concerned were also requested.

"If the audio conversation between two persons is about a third party, the latter can participate in the proceedings," the commission observed.

Justice Isa then announced that the commission's proceedings will be held on Saturday (May 27) at 10am.

Audio leaks to be probed

The commission will probe into the following audio leaks:

  • Call between former Punjab chief minister and an advocate about fixation of some cases before a particular SC bench.
  • Call between former Punjab chief minister and a sitting apex court judge.
  • Call between former chief justice of Pakistan Saqib Nisar and a senior lawyer.
  • Call between a lawyer and a journalist on the outcome of a case before a particular SC bench.
  • Call between former prime minister Khan and his party colleague about their links in the apex court.
  • Call between mother-in-law of CJP Umar Ata Bandial and wife of a lawyer regarding SC cases and conversation about an un-constitutional rule.
  • Call between ex-CJP Nisar’s son Najam Saqib and his friend mentioning his father in a political role.