• Federal govt sees it as ‘internal matter’, unlikely to furnish own stance on judges’ letter
• Premier legal body yet to work out proposals sought by apex court
• SCBA says consultative meeting to be held on May 8

ISLAMABAD: Disquiet is gro­wing within the ranks of the Su­­p­reme Court Bar Association (SCBA) over the indecision on its response to a letter, written by six judges of the Islamabad High Court, alleging meddling in judicial affairs by intelligence agencies.

A similar reluctance is evident on the part of the government, which may not furnish any reply or suggestion to the Supreme Court, since it believes that it is an institutional matter and should be decided by the institution itself.

The SCBA has been hesitant in charting a course to ensure the independence of judiciary, as required by the Supreme Court, which is seized with a suo motu case against the backdrop of the March 25 letter written by the six IHC judges.

In its April 3 order, the apex court had asked the SCBA and the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) to furnish their proposals by April 25, after proper consultation within the respective bodies.

The SC had expressed the confidence that the association will furnish practical suggestions for realising a robust and independent judiciary, free from external pressures not to compromise its integrity and fair administration of justice.

Consequently, some members of the SCBA’s 26th executive committee confided to Dawn that despite requests for an urgent meeting to chalk out the association’s response, no such huddle seems to be on the cards in the near future.

One of the body’s senior members even requisitioned a meeting at the earliest possible date, on or before April 25, to discuss the contents of the judges’ letter and examine the implications of the SC’s April 3 order in the context of the allegations of executive interference.

The member said the me­­e­ting should also consider ap­­propriate responses and act­ions to be taken by the association for upholding the in­­d­ependence of judiciary, ad­­­dressing encroachments by the executive branch and formulating recommendations and strategies to prevent future occurrences of such interference by streng­thening the rule of law.

SCBA President Shahzad Shaukat, when approached, rubbished the claim that no meeting was being called, saying that in fact a consultative meeting has been called for May 8.

“We believe that a suitable response on behalf of the association should be given to the Supreme Court — a response befitting of the premier association,” he said, adding that the SCBA has sought input from members which will be deliberated upon during the May 8 meeting for developing an official statement on behalf of the association.

PBC’s stance

When the chairman of the executive committee of Pakistan Bar Council (PBC), Farooq Naek, was asked why no meeting was called, he said the PBC had already held a meeting on April 5, in which a resolution was approved seeking an impartial investigation by a judicial commission consisting of SC’s sitting judges to settle the issues raised by the six IHC judges.

The resolution poin­ted out that when judges ex­­press concern through a written letter, it signifies a moment of great significa­n­­ce to the independent working of judicial system. Thus to safeguard law, Consti­tution and fundamental rights of the citizens of Pakistan, a comprehensive investigation into these allegations is not only justified but necessary, it had emphasised.

“This is our response to the Supreme Court and it will remain so,” Mr Naek explained.

Govt reluctance

A source privy to the development told Dawn that the federal government may also not furnish any reply or suggestion to the Supreme Court, since it believes that it is an institutional matter and should be decided within the institution.

Besides, he explained, there was no need of giving any reply when the IHC judges had accused the government or institutions of meddling into the judicial affairs. However, the government will follow any directions issued by the court.

Since a number of petitions have also been filed before the apex court, the source said, it is likely that the SC may consider issuing notices to the respondents and may give another opportunity to the bar associations to furnish their response.

Another plea

On Wednesday, the Balochis­tan Bar Council and the Baloch­istan High Court Bar Association moved separate petitions before the Supreme Court seeking a direction that illegal acts of meddling into judicial affairs should be declared unconstitutional and unlawful rather a threat to the rule of law, access to justice and independence of judiciary.

The court should also ord­er the federal government to deal in accordance with law with those who were found involved in such matters.

Published in Dawn, April 25th, 2024

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