ISLAMABAD: A group of lawyers and civil society members urged the Sup­reme Court to initiate suo motu proceedings to investigate the allegations levelled by the Islamabad High Court (IHC) judges against intelligence officials, as it rejected the ‘powerless’ one-man commission appointed by the federal cabinet to probe these claims.

The top court was asked to take “cognisance of the matter in its jurisdiction under Article 184(3) of the Constitution as this issue eminently relates to public interest and to the enforcement of fundamental rights”.

In a joint letter signed by over 300 lawyers and over a dozen members of civil society, the lawyers said the apex court should form a bench of all available judges to hear the matter and proceedings should be telecast live for public consumption.

It also urged the court to look into the allegations levelled by retired justice Shaukat Siddiqui, besides the recent claims of meddling in judicial affairs.

“It is further imperative that such proceedings are not limited in scope and …that such proceedings affix responsibility for any breach by the executive officials (if proven) and hold those responsible to account to secure the independence of the judiciary and to restore public confidence in the institution of judiciary.”

According to the letter, the entire justice system becomes a sham if judges are coe­rced as claimed by the IHC letter.

“When judges, the last guardians standing between state excesses and the fundamental rights of citizens, are systematically coerced and intimidated, the entire system of justice becomes a sham and loses its credibility. Lawyers seeking justice for litigants before the courts do so with the expectation that they will be heard by neutral, impartial and unbiased arbiters seeking to dispense justice,” it said.

Lawyers’ convention

It urged the Pakistan Bar Cou­ncil and all bar associations to call a convention of lawyers on an “urgent basis” to decide on a collective course of action for the independence of the judiciary.

It endorsed the resolutions passed by the Islamabad High Court Bar Association, the Islamabad Bar Association, the Sindh High Court Bar Association, the Pakistan Bar Council, the KP Bar Council and the Balochistan Bar Council to the extent that they resolve to uphold the principle of independence of judiciary, express solidarity with the six judges of the IHC, commend their courageous action and demand appropriate action.

‘Conflict of interest’

The lawyers questioned the constitution of the commission by the federal government, saying: “Such course evidently detracts from well-established judicial principles requiring proceedings to be held before an impartial, unbiased and independent forum.”

Moreover, the time frame within which such inquiry is to be conclu­ded and whether or not the report of such an inquiry commission will be permitted to be made public is also within the control of the federal government, they pleaded.

Published in Dawn, April 1st, 2024

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