SC issues show-cause notices to Faisal Vawda, Mustafa Kamal on remarks against judiciary

Published May 17, 2024
A photo combo of (L to R) Justice Naeem Akhtar Afghan, Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa and Irfan Supreme Court bench hearing a suo motu against Senator Faisal Vawda. — SC
A photo combo of (L to R) Justice Naeem Akhtar Afghan, Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa and Irfan Supreme Court bench hearing a suo motu against Senator Faisal Vawda. — SC

The Supreme Court on Friday issued show-cause notices to lawmakers Faisal Vawda and Mustafa Kamal, seeking responses from them on their recent rhetoric against the judiciary.

The development came as a three-member bench — headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa and including Justice Irfan Saadat Khan and Justice Naeem Akhtar Afghan — presided over the proceedings of a suo motu notice taken a day ago against independent Senator Vawda.

On Wednesday, two senators — Vawda and PML-N’s Talal Chaudhry — had held separate pressers, questioning the Islam­abad High Court (IHC) judges’ claim that intelligence agencies had interfered in the judicial affairs. Without any evidence no one had the right to point a finger at the institutions, they added.

The next day, two MNAs — Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P’s) Mustafa Kamal and Istehkam-i-Pakistan Party’s (IPP’s) Awn Chaudhry — also highlighted the judiciary’s alleged shortcomings and called for establishing ethical standards for the judges.

Kamal claimed the judiciary had set “ethical standards” for politicians and the dual citizenship of judges was a “big question mark” and the judiciary should be made answerable on this issue, while Awn had termed it a crisis that would lead to an “anarchy in the country”.

In late March, six IHC judges — out of a total strength of eight — wrote a startling letter to the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) members, regarding attempts to pressure judges through the abduction and torture of their relatives as well as secret surveillance inside their homes.

Meanwhile, in a reported letter written this week to IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq on the breach of his family’s personal data, Justice Babar Sattar had said that while hearing the audio leaks case, he issued notices to the heads of intelligence and investigation agencies, besides relevant ministries.

Senator Vawda had said that the trend of targeting institutions must stop. He had asked why Justice Sattar had raised his voice “one year after the alleged interference”, adding that if the IHC judges had any evidence they should come forward. “We will stand with you.”

Vawda also said that he had requested the IHC for details of correspondence between then-IHC chief justice Athar Min­allah and Justice Sattar on the issue of the latter’s US green card, claiming that despite the passage of 15 days, he had not been provided the required details. The senator requested the SJC to take notice of the matter.

In his press conference, Chaudhry said that a judge never writes a letter, rather he issues notice for any interference.

It may be mentioned that the IHC registrar’s office had responded to Vawda on Tuesday. Additional Registrar Ijaz Ahmed stated that information related to residency or citizenship is not included in the requirements for the appointment of a judge in the high court.

In his letter to Vawda, the additional registrar stated that “the conversation between potential candidates for appointment as judge or/an interview with the hon’ble chief justice and/or senior puisne judge of high court is not a communication of which record is maintained and minutes taken”.

As per the letter, there was no written record with the IHC regarding the discussion in the JCP on Justice Sattar’s green card.

Interestingly, the Judicial Commi­ssion of Pakistan (JCP) had in 2013 rejected the name of senior lawyer Anis Jilani for appointment as the IHC judge because of his dual nationality.

Today, Additional Attorney General (AAG) Aamir Rehman appeared before the court.

The hearing

At the outset of the hearing, CJP Isa asked the AAG if he had listened to Vawda’s press conference and whether it amounted to contempt of court.

To this, Rehman replied that he had not heard the entire media talk but parts of it. The top judge asked whether a matter could be commented on if it was sub judice before a court.

The chief justice then remarked that there had been a greater number of statements against him in comparison but he had “ignored” them. “But would you start reducing the institutions’ respect?” he asked.

“If [I] have done wrong then name me [but] will not allow the institution (judiciary) to be targeted,” the top judge asserted. “It is possible that even I have seen 500 faults in this institution.

“It is said a son cannot be held responsible for his father’s sin. If an MNA is wrong, we cannot call the entire Parliament wrong. There are both, good and bad journalists even in the media.

“We know at what rank our judiciary is [but] hurling abuses is not appropriate,” Justice Isa observed. “Do you want to reduce the judiciary’s honour by making such statements?” he asked.

“They took advantage of [me] ignoring that by thinking ‘we can also make a speech’,” Justice Isa said.

Stating that institutions belonged to the public, CJP Isa observed that “defaming” them was not equivalent to serving the country. “There can be faults in institutions. I cannot bear someone else’s burden,” he added.

The chief justice then said that if a wrong decision had been made, then “criticism” should be done. He further said that the judiciary was “trying to do good deeds”, highlighting that the apex court was also following the Practice and Procedures Act.

Justice Isa noted that the one to wield a gun was the weakest as “he has nothing to say”, adding that the second-most weakest person was one who hurled abuses. “A person who would have [valid] arguments would silence even us judges,” he said.

The top judge emphasised that he had taken oath of his role “not for himself but for the institution”.

Recalling the allegations of a former Rawalpindi commissioner against him and the chief election commissioner, the CJP said the “entire media reported it”.

“Tell me how did I had rigging conducted [in the elections]? Even if I wanted to, how would it happen?” Justice Isa asked, asserting: “I have taken oath not for myself but for the institution.”

“No one speaks in this manner in a respectable society, which is why the law of contempt of court is not used there,” he stated. “What is the need to shout and put on a show? Do constructive criticism. Are you serving the institution by screaming and shouting?” he said.

CJP Isa went on to assert: “I will never defend those who extended martial law. If I have done something wrong, other judges cannot be punished for it.

“There should be a limit to criticism,” the chief justice observed.

The top judge then noted that after Vawda, Kamal also made statements, mentioning former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

“If we are in the wrong, then tell us,” he said, recalling that the Supreme Court had “acknowledged its mistake” in the case of Bhutto’s hanging.

“Do not attack at every matter; you are destroying the institution,” Justice Isa stated.

“There is only one job; to defame the institutions. You worked hard by making a speech but no one takes the written route for betterment,” he remarked.

“If you have to make speeches then do so in the Parliament. Why in the press club?” the chief justice wondered, noting that both Vawda and Kamal were members of the Parliament. He highlighted that even in the Parliament, a judge’s conduct could not be discussed.

Wondering if any journalist had questioned the said lawmakers about holding press conferences, CJP Isa said, “They only want a captive audience.”

“We know that our [Rule of Law] index number is 137 or so,” he noted.

At this point, Justice Isa asked who would be the prosecutor if proceedings of contempt of court were held, at which the AAG replied that the attorney general of Pakistan would be the prosecutor.

The top judge then asked AAG Rehman, “Now, it is upon your shoulders. Should a show-cause notice be issued or only a notice?”

“Every citizen of the country is part of the judiciary. […] Mistakes were made [but] we have to accept them and move ahead,” he remarked.

The chief justice then issued notices to Vawda and Kamal, seeking clarification of their statements within two weeks. CJP Isa said, “Let’s summon both [so] they can criticise us in front of us.”

While dictating the day’s short order, he observed that in retrospect, the two lawmakers had committed contempt of court.

The apex court also sought the video recordings and transcripts of both politicians’ press conferences from the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra). Subsequently, the hearing was adjourned till June 5.

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