Justice Isa questions SC’s stay order on audio leaks commission

Justice Isa announces that proceedings of judicial commission were stopped

By
Abdul Qayyum Siddiqui
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

In a twist of events on Saturday, Justice Qazi Faez Isa resumed the proceedings of the audio leaks commission and raised questions over the Supreme Court order stopping the judicial panel from working.  

The commission also included Islamabad High Court Chief Justice Aamer Farooq and Balochistan High Court Chief Justice Naeem Akhtar Afghan held its first hearing on May 22.

However, a five-member SC bench headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Syed Hasan Azhar Rizvi and Justice Shahid Waheed issued orders to stay the commission's proceedings.

The decision came on a set of petitions filed by Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) President Abid Shahid Zuberi, SCBA Secretary Muqtedir Akhtar Shabbir, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan and Advocate Riaz Hanif Rahi requesting that the commission's formation be declared illegal.

Today’s proceedings

At the outset of the hearing, Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Usman Awan appeared before the commission and read out the apex court's order before the bench.

Upon hearing the order, Justice Isa said: “According to the rules of the Supreme Court, a decision is taken after listening to the parties.”

He further said that a copy of the order should be provided to the commission.

He also inquired if the apex court had issued any order regarding the inquiry commission and remarked: “I also know a little about the constitution.”

“The commission was a party in the matter, why was it not heard?” he asked.

The top court judge then asked the AGP what he was doing in the courtroom yesterday.

“Were you given notice [to appear before the court] or were you just sitting there?” he asked.

The AGP replied that it was communicated to him verbally that he should appear before the court.

“After the hearing, the notice was issued to me,” he said.

Justice Isa then remarked that the commission was not notified before the hearing.

“So how was it stopped from working?”

Turning to the AGP, he asked: “Why didn't you tell the court yesterday that we had already addressed the points of their objections?

“I am surprised you did not reject these points.”

Privacy concerns

Furthermore, commenting on one of the key issues raised in the petitions filed in the SC yesterday, observed that privacy always belongs to the home.

“One cannot peep into someone's house; however, there are CCTV cameras on the streets, are they also against privacy?” he asked.

He said that the commission was doing nothing that would be considered a breach of anyone’s privacy.

He remarked that Zuberi, who has also been issued notices in the audio leaks investigation, and PTI lawyer Shoaib Shaheen did not even bother to show up before the commission.

“Shoaib Shaheen is a lawyer, he is always speaking on TV,” Justice Isa observed, adding that according to the rules, a lawyer cannot talk to the media about his case.

“Shoaib Shaheen violates the Lawyers Practice and Procedure Act by appearing on TV every day but has come to teach us the law. No problem, teach us; we learn the law every day.”

“Shoaib Shaheen gave speeches on the media [defending his case], but did not bother to come here. Didn't they have to appear before the court and tell what was ordered yesterday?” he asked.

He further added that another person who had been issued a notice to appear before the court had sent an application, excusing himself.

“Another party has said that he is in Lahore for a medical check-up,” the top court judge remarked.

He asked us to take his statement when the commission goes to Lahore, the Justice said, referring to its previous announcement that while the commission would meet at the SC, it could travel to Lahore to take statements of the older women involved.

He then called Abdul Qayyum Siddiqui — the only person of the four to appear before the court — to the rostrum.

It may be that some parties do not have any objection to the actions of the commission, he said.

Twitter

Justice Isa's then turned to another point mentioned in the apex court’s order and questioned the AGP on what Twitter was.

The AGP replied: “It is a software. I do not know about the hacker. Perhaps, someone from the media does.”

Defending the commission, he said it should at least be determined who was releasing the audios and whether they were real or not.

“Maybe these audios were leaked by those in them. If there is an investigation, all [of] this will be known.”

He further said that there is talk of giving money to the judge, but the investigation has been stopped.

High court's authority

Another point of discussion in today’s hearing was the apex court’s declaration yesterday that “the subject matter of the reference transcends any particular high court.”

“High courts are not subordinate to the Supreme Court," Justice Isa observed in this matter, adding that the apex court cannot supervise the high courts.

“The decision of the Supreme Court is applicable to the subordinate judiciary and the executive, but not to the Supreme Court,” Justice Isa said.

Federalism was discussed in the order of the 5-member bench, he noted.

He further added: “The Supreme Court annulled several decisions of the high courts; apparently federalism was destroyed.”

Commission's decision

Justice Isa then instructed the AGP to read the judge's oath.

“It is written in the oath that I will perform my duties according to the constitution and law,” he said.

“This inquiry commission has been formed under a law — the Commission of Inquiry Act,” he further remarked, adding that people have to do certain things in life which they do not like.

Further adding that the judges got nothing to conduct such “painful investigations”, he said: “If this commission was not allowed under oath, I would have excused myself.”

Following a thorough examination of the supreme court’s order, he said, “the petitioners are telling us that there is an injunction, you cannot hear this [inquiry]. [So] we are not [any] taking further action.”

He then announced that the proceedings of the judicial commission were stopped.

“We will issue today's action order,” he said.