ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court, hearing a mysterious petition seeking regulation of media freedom, has framed nine questions to be answered by a senior lawyer and an advocate on record (AoR) through respective affidavits explaining who had instructed and engaged them to file such plea.

“The filing of CP No. 27 of 2022 has become a very serious matter; three of the six petitioners have completely dissociated themselves from it,” said a seven-page order issued after the May 13 hearing of a challenge by the Press Association of the Supreme Court (PAS) against “roving inquiries” by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and summons being issued by the joint investigation team (JIT) on vague allegations of so-called explicit and malicious campaign against the superior judiciary and its judges.

The SC order asked AoR Syed Rifaqat Hussain Shah and senior counsel Haider Waheed, under whose name the petition was filed, to explain who drafted the petition and where, who printed it for filing, who issued the requisite notices to the respondents at the time of filing the petition, who paid their fees and how, proof of dispatch of drafts through email, WhatsApp, courier or by other means, proof of communication with any of the petitioners, including Advocate Qausain Faisal, and who paid the cost, including travel.

Under Order 1, Rule 2 of the Supreme Court Rules, 1980, AoR is an advocate who is entitled to act in the Supreme Court by pleading for a party, including an appellant, respondent, plaintiff, defendant, etc.

Three out of six petitioners deny filing plea seeking regulation of media freedom

The rules suggest that a senior advocate or an AoR is entitled to appear and plead before the Supreme Court on signing his respective roll. No advocate can appear or plead in any matter unless he/she is instructed by the AoR; besides, every AoR before acting on behalf of any person or party will file in the court registry a power of attorney in the prescribed form authorising him to act.

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

Three of the petitioners appea­red before the court on May 13 to deny the filing of the petition. They were International Human Rights Movement’s senior vice chairman Raja Sher Bilal from Chakwal, Wings College Chakwal Principal Prof Abrar Ahmed and former president of District Bar Chakwal Advocate Mohammad Asif.

The court order noted that the petitioners stated their names had been misused as they had neither instructed nor filed the petition. Therefore, they were shown their purported signatures on the power of attorney of AoR Ahmed Nawaz Chaudhry. But the three individuals explained that they did not sign the power of attorney nor they owned the signatures affixed in the document.

After the demise of Ahmed Nawaz Chaudhry, the petitioners were said to engage the services of Syed Rifaqat Hussain Shah as their AoR, but the three individuals also denied engaging him.

The order said the original CNICs of the three petitioners were also seen by the court to compare their signatures with the power of attorney which did not match.

AoR Rifaqat Shah explained that the office of Haider Waheed had engaged him on behalf of these petitioners. But Mr Waheed denied this and stated that he had never met any of the petitioners though communicated with only one of the petitioners, namely Advocate Qausain Faisal.

Published in Dawn, May 22nd, 2024

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