ISLAMABAD: As the Supreme Court resumes hearing in the journalist harassment case on Wednesday (today), senior lawyers are suggesting that either a larger bench be formed or the matter be put on hold until Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Gulzar Ahmed returns home from his foreign tour.
The legal circles are abuzz with suggestions that given the sensitivity of the matter, it would be wise that the case is taken up when other judges, who are stationed these days at their local registries like in Karachi, Lahore or Peshawar, return to the principal seat at Islamabad, become members of the bench, and hear the suo-motu case.
On Monday President of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) Abdul Latif Afridi had also requested the five-judge bench, headed by Acting Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, to order formation of a full court of the Supreme Court, comprising all its 17 judges, to hear the matter.
Vice Chairman of the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) Khushdil Khan, who has been asked by the Supreme Court to assist it, told Dawn that he would support whatever stand Mr Afridi would take before the court on Wednesday.
Legal experts suggest formation of larger bench or wait till CJP’s return from abroad
The five-judge bench — comprising the acting chief justice, Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Munib Akhbar, Justice Qazi Mohammad Amin Ahmad and Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar — in its Aug 23 order had asked the Attorney General for Pakistan Khalid Jawed Khan, the PBC, SCBA and Press Association of the Supreme Court (PAS) to come prepared before the court on Wednesday since the Aug 20 order by a two-judge bench, headed by Justice Qazi Faez Isa, might obscure and unsettle the practice of invoking suo motu jurisdiction, resulting in needless uncertainty and controversy with attendant consequences.
The Aug 20 order was issued on an application filed the PAS. Under the order, notices were issued to several federal government authorities and the law officers of the federation and the provinces with a directive to fix the matter before the court on Aug 25.
A senior counsel on condition of anonymity said that since the matter revolved around suo motu actions — a practice usually undertaken by the CJP on realising certain violations of the fundamental rights or on the recommendation of a judge of the apex court — it would be better that the case be put on wait until the CJP returned from his visit to the US.
Meanwhile a lawyer has moved an application before the Supreme Court with a request to implead him as a party in the matter.
In a four-page application under Order 33 of Rule 6 of the Supreme Court Rules 1980, Zulfikar Ahmad Bhutta, stated that being a lawyer who had highlighted different violations of human and fundamental rights by approaching the superior courts since 1997, he was concerned with the matter.
Col Rahiem detention case
In a separate development, the Supreme Court on Tuesday disposed of a case relating to the detention of Advocate Col (retd) Inam-ul-Rahiem when the AGP expressed regret on behalf of the State over whatever happened to Col Rahiem.
Headed by the acting chief justice, a three-judge bench disposed of the matter when the AGP stated that the State was concerned only with the observations of the Jan 9, 2020 short order of the Lahore High Court, Rawalpindi bench.
Earlier on Jan 14, 2020, the Supreme Court had suspended the high court’s declaration of holding as illegal the detention of Col Rahiem, when the then attorney general Anwar Mansoor had revealed before the court that the accused was facing serious allegations of espionage and being interrogated under the Official Secret Act 1923 and the Pakistan Army Act (PAA) 1952.
The Supreme Court had taken up the federal government’s appeal against the Jan 9 short order in which the high court, while hearing a habeas corpus petition of Husnain Inam, the son of Col Rahiem, had declared the detention of the lawyer unlawful.
Published in Dawn, August 25th, 2021
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