ISLAMABAD: The unabated onslaught against the judiciary on different social media platforms following the Supreme Court’s verdict in Justice Qazi Faez Isa case has surprised legal luminaries who have described the tendency as most unfortunate which has the potential to harm the very institution of judiciary.
The apex court had through a majority judgement on April 26 overturned its June 19, 2020 order that required verification and subsequent findings by the tax authorities of three foreign properties in the name of the wife and children of Justice Faez Isa.
Consequently, the entire exercise conducted by the Federal Board of Revenue was rendered null and void since the fresh order that came on a set of review petitions had recalled and set aside the June 19 verdict, which though quashed the presidential reference against Justice Isa, authorised the FBR to evaluate and later impose tax liability on Mrs Isa for possessing three properties in the United Kingdom.
Soon after the SC verdict a coordinated move appears to have been launched on social media aimed at attacking certain judges and the institution of judiciary.
Malicious campaign targeting certain judges launched on social media after SC verdict in Justice Isa case
Former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) Hamid Khan said it seemed the April 26 judgement had been received with a pinch of salt by certain quarters who had launched a which-hunt against certain judges, especially Justice Isa for his Feb 6, 2019 verdict against the Faizabad sit-in by the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan.
He regretted that the character-assassination campaign against the judges had been unleashed following the SC verdict. He was also critical of the media, saying that instead of reacting to the campaign it had become a silent spectator when everybody knew which quarters were behind this malicious move.
A senior government official on condition of anonymity said the government needed to determine if the present fierce campaign was an orchestrated move being managed by a particular quarter or part of an informed discussion by some independent citizens.
He said that freedom to free speech and expression was a constitutional right under Article 19 of the Constitution, but this right was subject to reasonable restrictions imposed by the law and the framers of the constitution had deliberately designed the green book in a way to defend and protect the interest of the glory of Islam, the integrity, security and defence of Pakistan or in relation to the contempt of court, etc. This freedom is always a double-edge sword which, if remained unchecked, has the potential to harm and damage the entire democratic institutions, he added.
“Individuals are free to criticise any judgement delivered by a judge or a bench of the superior judiciary but carefully in a way which should not be seen as a deliberate attempt to bring the judiciary into disrespect or disrepute or lower the authority of the court or scandalise a judge in relation to his office,” he said.
The official also cited a recent judgement of the European Court of Human Rights which had ruled that blasphemy of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) was not covered by freedom of expression and that defaming the Prophet “goes beyond the permissible limits of an objective debate and could stir up prejudice and put at risk religious peace”.
The official was of the opinion that the judges should not visit social media so that they could not be influenced by what was happening around them. It was also a good policy to ignore things by pretending as if they have not seen anything, he added.
A senior lawyer, who also wished not to be named, said the government should frame rules for social media platforms which were under active consideration by a five-member inter-ministerial committee constituted by Prime Minister Imran Khan. The committee is headed by Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari.
The lawyer said such malicious campaign against judges could not be checked by the government until these rules were finalised.
Sarina Isa’s open letter
Sarina Isa, wife of Justice Qazi Faez Isa, wrote a second open letter to former attorney general Anwar Mansoor on May 11, alleging that in the holy month of Ramazan he was threatening her with criminal prosecution forgetting that it was he who had allegedly violated a number of laws which constituted a crime.
Earlier, in her May 8 open letter, Mrs Isa had referred to a YouTube interview by the former attorney general speaking about her and said she was surprised that he did not accept the verdict of the Supreme Court where she had placed all relevant information and which had fully exonerated her.
In the second letter, Mrs Isa accused the former attorney general of committing contempt of the court, regretting that “petty men” had already caused immense grief for two long painful years.
“Heartless men, who had no decency, sent my father to the grave with a broken heart,” she alleged. “You say you have a copy of FBR chairman’s confidential report, a report which I repeatedly request him for, but which he never provided and which neither my husband nor I have read.”
The FBR chairman was neither a party nor did he file his report in the court, so how did the former attorney general get it, she wondered, asking if the report was prepared as “plan B”. Referencing the report confirmed that the former AG allegedly was part of yet another conspiracy, the roots of which his own disclosure has unveiled, she added.
Published in Dawn, May 13th, 2021