The Islamabad Bar Council (IBC) on Tuesday condemned and denounced a “baseless” and “frivolous reference” against Islamabad High Court’s (IHC) senior puisne judge Mohsin Akhtar Kay­ani.

A day earlier, it emerged that a former official of the Islam­abad High Court Bar Association (IHCBA) had moved the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) aga­inst Justice Kay­ani.

Justice Kayani is among the six judges who recently wrote a letter to the SJC detailing alleged harassment at the hands of state institutions. In the letter, the judges had accused the country’s intelligence apparatus of interference in judicial affairs, including attempts to pressure judges through abduction and torture of their relatives and secret surveillance inside their homes.

IHCBA former general secretary Mohammad Waqas alleged that IHC Justice Kayani “waged a war against the forces of Pakistan in a planned manner by inducing and convincing other judges of high court”.

His complaint to the SJC said that “the action of the learned judge […] is not initiated in good faith as he is facing ‘references’ questioning his integrity and conduct as a judge”.

An earlier reference revolved around the lawyers of the chamber where Justice Kayani was practising before his appointment to the IHC.

The complaint claimed that intelligence agencies were required to keep a check on the “criminal intents” of judges, but they had failed to do so. It claimed that the letter of the IHC judges had attempted to provoke the sentiments of the people affiliated with a political party and, in fact had mali­gned the prestigious office of a judge by indulging in political affairs for his personal gains.

It requested proceedings aga­i­nst the judge under Article 209 of the Constitution. The article empowers the SJC to carry out inquiries into the capacity and conduct of Supreme Court and high court judges.

In a statement released today, the IBC said Vice Chairman Adil Aziz Qazi expressed deep concern and strongly condemned the filing of the “frivolous reference” against Justice Kayani.

He added that the filing of the “baseless reference” was deemed to be an “affront to the esteemed judiciary” and was regarded as a “blatant abuse” of the legal process.

The statement said Justice Kayani had served the judiciary with the “utmost dedication, impartiality and integrity”, adding that the judge’s “unwavering commitment to upholding the rule of law and dispensing justice fairly is commendable and beyond reproach”.

It said it was “imperative” for the legal community as the guardians of justice to “vehemently condemn such malicious attempts to undermine the judiciary and tarnish the reputation of our esteemed judges”, adding that “frivolous references” not only wasted valuable judicial resources but also eroded public trust in the legal system.

The press release said that the IBC unequivocally condemned the filing of the complaint, stood in solidarity with the judge and reaffirmed the body’s unwavering support for judicial independence and integrity.

“Let it be known that the legal fraternity will not tolerate any attempts to to undermine the sanctity of our judicial institutions,” the press release concluded.

Contents of letter by IHC judges

Dated March 25, the letter was signed by IHC Justices Kayani, Tariq Mehmood Jahangiri, Babar Sattar, Sardar Ejaz Ishaq Khan, Arbab Muhammad Tahir and Saman Rafat Imtiaz.

It mentioned seven instances of alleged interference and intimidation “to influence the outcome of cases of interest” by the intelligence officials, pointing out that when two out of three judges in the bench hearing the plea to disqualify PTI leader Imran Khan for concealing his alleged daughter opined that the case was not maintainable, they were pressured by “operatives of the ISI” through friends and relatives.

The situation got so stressful that one of the judges had to be admitted to hospital due to high blood pressure, the letter said.

According to the six judges, the matter was brought to the notice of the IHC chief justice and the then-CJP. The former informed the judges that he had “spoken to the DG-C of ISI and had been assured that no official from ISI will approach the judges of the IHC”.

The letter complained that “interference on the part of intelligence operatives” continued even after IHC CJ’s assurance.

It also referred to the abduction of an IHC judge’s brother-in-law by armed men who claimed to be ISI operatives. The victim was “administered electric shocks” and “forced to record a video” making false allegations, apparently against the judge.

“Subsequently, a complaint was filed against the judge of IHC before the SJC, accompanied by an orchestrated media campaign to bring pressure to bear upon the judge to resign.”

The letter revealed that in May 2023, an IHC inspection judge reported to the chief justice that district court judges were being intimidated and crackers were thrown into the house of one additional district and sessions judge.

The judge was even called to the IHC to verify the claims which he confirmed. But instead of probing the allegations, the judge “was made officer on special duty and transferred to IHC, before being sent back to Punjab as he was a judicial officer on deputation”.

The letter said that last year, during routine maintenance, an IHC judge found that his official residence had been bugged with spy cameras concealed in his drawing room and bedroom.

When data from surve­illance equipment was rec­overed, it showed that “pr­i­vate videos of the judge and his family members” were stored. “The matter was brought to the attention of the IHC chief justice. There has been no determination of who installed the equipment and who is to be held accountable,” the letter added.

Along with their letter to the SJC, the six judges also attached copies of letters written to Justice Farooq on May 10, 2023 and Feb 12, 2024.

The letters mentioned, among other complaints, efforts of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) personnel to pressurise IHC judges and probe into the tax records of at least one judge “to seek a certain outcome”.

They added that it was imperative to determine whether there was a “policy on the part of the executive … implemented by intelligence operatives” to intimidate judges.

“[The] allegations of interference by operatives of ISI have been dealt with and relief has been granted to a former judge of IHC who was wronged. We believe that while such action was necessary, it may not be sufficient,” the letter said about Justice Siddiqui’s case.

The judges noted that the SJC’s code of conduct for judges did not outline the response to such incidents “that are tantamount to intimidation and interfere with judicial independence”.

They called for a judicial convention to discuss the interference of intelligence officials “that undermines independence of the judiciary”.

The consultation would help the Supreme Court to determine a course of action that judges could take “when they find themselves at the receiving end”, the letter said.

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