Narrative that I’ve intentionally created separate group within SC factually incorrect: Justice Isa

Published June 2, 2023
The combination photo shows Justice Qazi Faez Isa (L) and CJP Umar Ata Bandial (R). — SC website
The combination photo shows Justice Qazi Faez Isa (L) and CJP Umar Ata Bandial (R). — SC website

Senior puisne judge of the Supreme Court (SC), Justice Qazi Faez Isa, on Friday said that the “narrative” of him having “intentionally created” a separate group of judges within the superior judiciary was “factually incorrect and completely untrue”.

Justice Isa’s remarks were part of a clarification he issued regarding a video posted on social media which implied as if he had snubbed Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial after the oath-taking ceremony of Federal Shariat Court’s (FSC) Chief Justice Iqbal Hameedur Rahman.

The statement, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, quotes the judge recalling the incident and explaining the circumstances around it.

Justice Isa said that by the time the video was shot he had already met the CJP and greeted him while greeting the wife of Justice Hameed.

“Later, I went to talk to Dr Syed Muhammad Anwer, a former Aalim Judge of the FSC, when Justice Bandial came to greet him too,” the statement said. “Someone recorded this moment and incorrectly added that I had not greeted Justice Bandial even though just a few minutes earlier I had done so.”

The statement said that Justice Rahman’s wife wanted to introduce Justice Isa to some of her family members “which was the reason I turned (my back)”.

He criticised the “erroneous interpretations” of the viral video on social media, adding that “garnishing facts to create a controversial narrative was damaging to the institution.”

“I stand by my oath of office, to defend and uphold the Constitution of Pakistan and cannot concur with anything less,” he added.

Justice Isa requested the media to not propagate “factually incorrect stories” as they cause “unnecessary and avoidable misgivings and harm”.

“My family and I can attest to the pain of being the brunt of sponsored false stories in the recent past,” the statement further said.

“Let us not be detracted, let us work together to build a strong judicial system that focuses on the administration of expeditious justice.”

Earlier today, Justice Isa and Chief Justice Bandial also planted a sapling in the Supreme Court’s garden in Islamabad.

Background

On March 27, Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail had called for revisiting the power of the “one-man show” enjoyed by the chief justice, saying that the country’s top court could not “be dependent on the solitary decision of one man”.

Similarly on March 29, Justice Isa and Justice Aminuddin Khan had noted that the CJP did not have the power to make special benches or decide its members, and said that all hearings based on suo motu notices and cases of constitutional significance — under Article 184(3) — should be postponed until they are legislated upon.

Subsequently, a circular issued by the apex court registrar on March 31 said CJP Bandial had “disregarded” the judgement by Justice Isa and Justice Aminuddin. Later on April 4, a newly formed six-member apex court bench had “recalled” the interim order by the two judges.

Justice Isa had subsequently penned a judicial note saying that the six-member bench that a six-member bench did not “constitute a constitutional court nor possessed with any jurisdiction”.

The perception of division and bitterness among SC judges had become stronger amidst the developments but a thaw was witnessed on April 11 when Just­ice Isa held a meeting with CJP Bandial at the lat­­­ter’s chambers. A source privy to the development had told Dawn that the meeting was held in a congenial atmosphere, and the perception of widening fissures within the judiciary, and ideas to improve the image of the judiciary and restore citizens’ trust had come under discussion.

On April 14, the Supreme Court had issued a sternly worded rejection of an “utterly false news report” regarding an “alleged altercation” between the apex court’s judges.

Later on May 20, the government constituted a judicial commission comprising three senior judges, including Justice Isa, tasked with probing the veracity of recent audio leaks and “their impact on the independence of judiciary”.

However, on May 26, a Supreme Court bench, headed by CJP Bandial had stayed the proceedings of the judicial commission, suspended the notification of its appointment and also stopped implementation of the May 22 order by the Justice Isa-led three-judge commission to conduct open hearings and make the findings public.

Subsequently, CJP Bandial had remarked that the Supreme Court did not want to strike down the commission but the move to stay proceedings was merely aimed at protecting the independence of the judiciary. Proposing that the judiciary and executive interact with each other in a transparent manner, Justice Bandial had observed that the government should consult the chief justice of Pakistan before inducting judges into judicial commissions in line with convention.

On Wednesday, the commission raised objections to the five-judge bench hearing pleas against its formation as CJP Bandial adjourned the proceedings in the case till next week.

The commission said it would not be appropriate for the bench to hear these petitions as apex court judges were required to not allow their “personal interest to influence their ‘official conduct’ or ‘official decisions’”.

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