- The AG’s resignation may not be the end of the matter
Ever since settling into power, the incumbent government has embroiled itself into an unnecessary controversy with the judiciary. Rather than taking a step back when needed, the federal government decides to take all matters head-on as though it was another opposition party ranting out. Unable to digest verdicts of the courts, the government has been ill advised to go after author judges responsible for admonishing the government or those taking to task another branch of the state. Justice Mr Justice Qazi Faeez Isa’s case is the prime example of institutional conflict whereby, as widely believed, a judge has been targeted owing to his bold and strong verdict.
A strong worded decision wherein state institutions have been criticized for overstepping their mandates, made Mr Justice Isa a target. As alleged by the judge himself, he and his family have been subjected to illegal surveillance in the aftermath of the Faizabad verdict. Nevertheless, the petitions filed by the judge are on the verge of conclusion now as the government has started its arguments. However, the serenity of the courtroom was perturbed by the uncalled for remarks and allegations which marked the opening address of the Attorney General before the Supreme Court bench hearing the matter.
Judges who appeared to have been tilting towards the government, till now, seemed to have turned over the remarks. The allegations, which have since been expunged, put a question mark on each and every member of the Honourable Bench as no names were taken and only a bald allegation was asserted. The integrity and impartiality of the judges has been brought into the foray owing to unsubstantiated allegations of bias.
The Attorney General swiftly went on to continue with his arguments having fulfilled the purpose, at least in his mind. Little did he know that he surely had made a valiant attempt at getting the judges on their knees but, in the words of Mr Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, he had spewed venom in the wrong direction. The following day, the AG was received by a visibly perturbed and angry bench as he was directed to corroborate his allegations by presenting material evidence or, alternatively, to submit a written apology. Surely, the Attorney General had lowered the dignity of the court, there can be no denying that, but he wasn’t expecting a late reaction the next day. In his mind, the matter had been buried the day before once the bench had asked the news reporters to not cover the uncalled for comments.
The opening address, as intended, did send out ripples through the waters. But not the expected ones. The bench was taken aback but only to come down hard on the government. In regards to the sanctity of the court, it appears that the entire bench is now united and will take a unanimous decision as far as these allegations are concerned. Apology, under the circumstances, should not be accepted
Hours later, the AG found himself in hot water and, eventually, was sent packing. Though he claims to have resigned of his own accord, sources within the federal government state otherwise. It appears as though he was sacrificed in order to save the government. Sacking the AG is one thing but claiming that he spoke without authorization and instructions would be stretching it a bit too far. The Law Minister and the Asset Recovery Unit head were also present in the courtroom and yet not one of them stepped forward immediately to clarify that the controversial statement given by the Attorney General did not reflect the mindset of the government and was unauthorized. The Law Minister, if what he claims is the truth, should have made it clear to the bench that the allegations made about the bench were not according to the instructions given by the federal government, as opposed to absolving himself of all responsibility at a later stage.
Denying any involvement at a later stage wouldn’t absolve the government and its senior members of any responsibility. Even later during the day, after the hearing, no clarification was given by any government quarter and it was only after the bench came in heavy the next day did the government decided to submit a written clarification to the Supreme Court, disowning the AG along the way.
The top law officer may have been sacrificed but the ball is now in the actual ‘court’. It is for the members of the bench to decide whether or not the written apology submitted by the AG would suffice or would they be requiring further action and affixation of responsibility. It does not appeal to one’s mind that the comments of the Attorney General were solely made in a personal capacity and not one individual was privy to them beforehand. On the contrary, the same appeared to be part of a pre-planned line of action whereby judges of the Supreme Court would be made to back down by raising outrageous allegations at a time when they are hearing the case of a brother judge. The matter simply cannot be and should not be put to rest by the mere resignation of the Attorney General.
If a sitting federal government is willing to go to all lengths to lower the dignity of the Supreme Court, then much can be said about their advisors, who appear to be taking their own government down the drain. Similar talk of filing a reference against Chief Justice Waqar Ahmed Seth of the Peshawar High Court had also been heard in light of the Musharraf high treason case’s judgement. The idea of going after judges seems to gain much traction with the Imran Khan-led government but for what purpose, one fails to comprehend.
By simply availing legal remedies against a particular judgement, the government should avoid singling out judges and going after them. Yes, if an actual illegality has been committed prima facie then indeed the Supreme Judicial Council route should be adopted but not solely to settle scores and send out a message declaring war.
The opening address, as intended, did send out ripples through the waters. But not the expected ones. The bench was taken aback but only to come down hard on the government. In regards to the sanctity of the court, it appears that the entire bench is now united and will take a unanimous decision as far as these allegations are concerned. Apology, under the circumstances, should not be accepted.