• SC orders repeating show-cause notices to two others
• Counsel draws court’s ire over filing of bogus petitions
• CJP says judicial system can no more be manipulated

ISLAMABAD: Three of the six pro bono litigants, who had sought regulation of media freedom by filing a joint but mysterious petition in 2022, disclosed before the Supreme Court on Monday that their names were misused as they never consented to file the case.

A three-judge SC bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa, noted that even the signatures of litigants in wakalatnama (power of attorney) submitted to now deceased advocate on record (AoR) Ahmed Nawaz Chaudhry did not match with their CNICs.

Consequently, the bench issued show-cause notice to one of the six petitioners under the contempt of court law for his failure to appear before the court on Monday and ordered repeating the notices to the other two.

On April 2, the Supreme Court summoned the six petitioners, who had filed the petition in 2022 and later tried to withdraw it, due to discrepancies.

Those who appeared before the court to deny filing of the petition included International Human Rights Movement’s senior vice chairman Raja Sher Bilal from Chakwal, Wings College Chakwal principal Prof Abrar Ahmed and District Bar Chakwal’s ex-president Advocate Mohammad Asif, who even told the court that he had never been the president of the bar.

The petition had sought a court directive for the federal government to prepare and implement a specific code of conduct prohibiting defamation of institutions as well as of public servants, government functionaries and office-bearers in the service of Pakistan in line with Article 19 of the Constitution.

It pleaded that the government should also review the existing laws regulating speech and take appropriate measures to prohibit defamation of government institutions and, where necessary, enact legislation in line with Articles 19 and 25 of the Constitution.

The apex court issued show-cause notice to former inspector general of police Syed Ibn Hussain from Lahore and ordered repeating the notices to former joint secretary Hassan Mehmood from Islamabad through the government and Advocate Kosain Faisal from Islamabad through the Pakistan Bar Council and District Bar Association Rawalpindi.

After the demise of Ahmed Nawaz, another AoR Syed Rafaqat Ali Shah was engaged. He told the court that the office of Advocate Haider Waheed, on whose behalf the petition was filed, engaged him to represent him.

Mr Waheed, however, denied that he had ever instructed the late AoR or Rafaqat Ali and said he even did not meet the petitioner though he communicated with Kosain Faisal.

The situation become embarrassing for the counsel when the CJP wondered whether the counsel thought it was a serious matter and whether he was paid fee or he appeared pro bono. The CJP also wondered whether the counsel never found it odd that the petitioners were from Chakwal while he lived in Karachi.

“Naturally, I will become alarmed to note if the petitioners are not from my area,” CJP said, adding that if the filing of the petition was wrong, then withdrawal of the same was also wrong.

The counsel did not answer even a simple question, but ‘lectures’ everyone on TV on how the judiciary should function, the CJP said, questioning the need to file bogus petitions when the present case was of public interest.

The judicial system could have been manipulated in the past, but no more now, the CJP said, adding the AoR does not file petitions on their own initiative, but rather on the instructions of others. The CJP wondered why the counsel was not interested in investigating who was behind the filing of this petition.

At the hearing, former Pemra chairman Absar Alam asked Haider Waheed to name the person who had paid him the legal fee for the filing of the petition and if he filed it pro bono, then he would also like to engage the advocate in future.

About the case of journalists Matiullah Jan, Absar Alam and Asad Ali Toor, Islamabad IG Syed Ali Nasir Rizvi told the apex court that he himself was not satisfied with the investigation and would replace the investigator with a competent officer.

Published in Dawn, May 14th, 2024

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