Acting CJ Umar Ata Bandial holds meeting with Justice Qazi Faez Isa

Published August 28, 2021
A combination photo of Justice Qazi Faez Isa (L) and Acting Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial (R). — Dawn/File
A combination photo of Justice Qazi Faez Isa (L) and Acting Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial (R). — Dawn/File

ISLAMABAD: Acting Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial spent a busy day on Friday with an over two-hour-long meeting with Justice Qazi Faez Isa before the latter’s departure for the USA for treatment of his ailing wife, and a meeting with Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Khalid Jawed Khan.

The meetings were held a day after a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court recalled a two-member bench’s Aug 20 order, authored by Justice Isa, in which several government officials were summoned to answer allegations of harassment levelled by the journalists through an application.

During the meeting with the AGP, concern about the perception of widening fissure in the judiciary was also shared and ideas were discussed on improving the image of the judiciary and the citizens’ trust in the judiciary, according to sources.

On Friday, the ACJ also ordered fixing for Monday (Aug 30) the journalist harassment case to examine on suo motu the grievances of the applicants on the touchstone of Article 184(3) of the Constitution and discuss entitlement of the applicants to any relief.

The unanimous short order of Aug 26 by the five-judge bench had also directed to place the journalist harassment case to the office of the chief justice for further orders. Subsequently, the case file was furnished before the office and then a three-judge bench was constituted to take up the case on Monday.

The case has been fixed before a bench comprising Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan, Justice Munib Akhter and Justice Qazi Mohammad Amin Ahmed. The matter was fixed with an observation by the ACJ that the journalists had rendered valuable services to the people in keeping them abreast with events and informed opinion.

“Their work enjoys the protection of Article 18, Article 19A, Article 19 of the constitution,” observed the ACJ, adding that the violation of rights guaranteed by these articles raised questions of public importance attracting the constitutional jurisdiction of the Supreme Court under Article 184(3) of the Constitution.

A source privy to the development told Dawn that the meeting between ACJ and Justice Isa was held in the chambers of the former during which the ACJ also inquired about the health of his wife Sarina Isa and prayed for her early recovery.

The Supreme Court office also released a message on behalf of Justice Isa stating that his wife had been advised to undergo throat surgery to remove her enlarged thyroid in which had substantial nodule growth.

The message also clarified that Justice Isa and his wife would bear their travel and medical expenses.

A senior lawyer said that the meeting between the ACJ and Justice Isa, during which a frank discussion took place, was a good omen and gesture that would help dispel the impression about widening gulf between the judges of the Supreme Court.

On Thursday, Supreme Court Bar Association President Abdul Latif Afridi, while arguing before the five-judge Supreme Court bench hearing the dispute over invocation of the suo motu powers, had pointed out the perception that the apex court was divided. He had emphasised that the Supreme Court should not act in a divided manner but should remain united to defend and protect the constitution.

Legal observers expect that pending cases of ordinary litigants will be given more emphasis when the Supreme Court will begin the new judicial year from Sept 13. Already the caseload in the Supreme Court has an overwhelming backlog of more than 52,000 cases.

Earlier the Press Association of the Supreme Court, in its application before the Supreme Court, had requested the court to initiate appropriate action to ensure fundamental rights of the journalist and hold accountable those committing harassment of the journalists and responsible for squeezing the freedom of the press.

The application had also highlighted that presently Pakistan was ranked 145th in the global press freedom report by the Reporters Without Borders 2021.

Likewise, a report released by the Freedom Network regretted a dramatic escalation in the climate of intimidation and harassment of the media and its practitioners adversely affecting the freedom of expression, the application had highlighted.

Published in Dawn, August 28th, 2021

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