ISLAMABAD: As a seven-member Supreme Court bench takes up allegations of ‘meddling in jud­icial affairs’ on Wedne­sday, Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan and the Lahore High Court Bar Associa­tion (LHCBA) have filed separate, but similar petitions, to join proceedings.

These two petitions may be clubbed with the case being heard by the larger bench, which was constituted to proceed under Article 184(3) of the Constitution after former chief justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani recused himself from becoming part of the one-man probe commission and a group of lawyers and civil society members wrote a letter to the SC in this regard.

The alleged harassment of judges at the hands of intelligence officials was thrust into limelight on March 26 when six out of the eight judges of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) wrote a startling letter to the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC), detailing attempts to pressurise judges through the abduction and torture of their relatives, as well as secret surveillance inside their homes.

In his petition, Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan requested the SC to declare that the allegations levelled by the IHC judges, as well as those raised by retired Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, constitute evidence that the intelligence agencies and its operatives were involved in unlawful attempts to influence decisions of the IHC and district judiciary in Islamabad — a development that requires a judicial probe.

He also asked the SC to declare that any interference into the judicial affairs were clearly unlawful and unconstitutional and a serious threat to the rule of law and independence of the judiciary.

He further urged the SC to direct the federal government to terminate from service all such individuals which the judicial commission, so announced, determines their involvement in such unlawful acts without any retirement or other benefits being payable to them from the national exchequer.

He also requested the SC to order that the government servants including any serving army officer or operatives of ISI, who seek to influence the judicial proceedings or judges, would be liable to be terminated forthwith from service without any retirement or other benefits being payable to such individual from the national exchequer.

The LHCBA’s petition, meanwhile, urged the top court to declare the formation of the one-man commission illegal, void without lawful authority and of no legal effect and initiate an inquiry into the allegations and award exemplary punishment to those found guilty of attempts to intimidate, influence or meddle with the working of the judiciary.

The petition also emphasised that the judges must administer justice impartially without fear or favour, or bias or any concern.

The ability of judges to perform their functions was dependent on the public trust and confidence in the judiciary, the LHCBA argued.

Published in Dawn, April 3rd, 2024

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