SC holds full court meeting on IHC judges' letter alleging spy agencies 'interference'

CJP among other top court judges attend meeting to discuss allegations of spy agencies' interference in judicial matters

By
Abdul Qayyum Siddiqui
Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa. — SC website/File
Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa. — SC website/File
  • Meeting presided over by CJP Qazi Faez Isa held in Islamabad.
  • Full court deliberates on letter by the IHC judges.
  • AGP says the matter is serious and it should be probed.

ISLAMABAD: A full court meeting of the Supreme Court judges was held in the federal capital to deliberate on a letter written by the six Islamabad High Court judges about the alleged interference of spy agencies in the judiciary, sources told Geo News on Wednesday.

The Supreme Court judges including Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa attended the huddle that lasted for over two hours in the federal capital.

The development took place after the bar associations and legal experts called for a probe into the letter. 

The sources said that the Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Usman Awan met the CJP and discussed the matter.

After the meeting, AGP, while talking to journalists, said that the matter is serious and it should be probed. 

Bar associations of Sindh, Lahore, Islamabad and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as well as senior lawyers condemned the alleged interference, urging the top judge to look into the matter.  

Letter by IHC judges

The letter, written a day earlier on Tuesday, urged the council to convene a judicial convention over the alleged interference of members of the executive, including operatives of intelligence agencies, in judicial affairs.

The IHC judges — who wrote the letter to the SJC — include Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kiyani, Justice Tariq Mehmood Jahangiri, Justice Babar Sattar, Justice Sardar Ejaz Ishaq Khan, Justice Arbab Muhammad Tahir, and Justice Saman Fafat Imtiaz.

Seeking guidance from the council on “interference” of the spy agencies in courts’ affairs, the judges wrote: "We are writing to seek guidance from the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) with regard to the duty of a judge to report and respond to actions on part of members of the executive, including operatives of intelligence agencies, that seek to interfere with discharge of his/her official functions and qualify as intimidation, as well as the duty to report any such actions that come to his/her attention in relation to colleagues and/or members of the courts that the High Court supervises."

The development came days after the top court declared the removal of former IHC Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui illegal, directing that he may now be considered as a retired judge.

The IHC judges, in their letter, noted that the code of conduct for judges prescribed by SJC provides no guidance on how they "must react to and or report incidents that are tantamount to intimidation and interfere with judicial independence".

The judges further said that they “believe it is imperative to inquire into and determine whether there exists a continuing policy on the part of the executive branch of the state" to meddle in judicial affairs.

HRCP 'deeply troubled' by IHC judges' allegations 

In a statement, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said it is deeply concerned by the allegations made by six high court judges, who claim that interference and intimidation by the state’s intelligence agencies have undermined the independence of the judiciary.

The judges’ apprehension that such interference constitutes "a continuing policy" on the part of the executive and that intelligence operatives have attempted to "engineer judicial outcomes in politically consequential matters" is cause for serious concern, it added. 

"Equally troubling are revelations that judges’ relatives have been abducted and tortured, allegedly by intelligence personnel as a means of intimidation, and that judges have been subjected to illegal surveillance in their own homes."

The HRCP said if judges of the higher courts are subjected to such blatant interference, then by extension, it is likely that the lower courts are even more vulnerable. "Such authoritarian tactics have compromised the integrity of the legal system at the cost of people's access to justice, which is at the core of the constitution."

The HRCP has long argued that the intelligence services, which have wrought significant damage to the country's institutions, must be brought under transparent civilian oversight by means of a new legal architecture, the statement added. 

"This must now be done urgently to strengthen democratic checks and balances."