ISLAMABAD: Islamabad High Court (IHC) Chief Justice Athar Minallah has stated on Monday that judicial activism had already caused a lot of damage to the judiciary, while adding that the court cannot risk “opening up of the floodgates” by ordering inquiries into “anything that goes viral on social media”
While hearing arguments on the maintainability of a petition seeking the formation of an independent commission to authenticate the alleged audio of former CJP Saqib Nisar, Justice Minallah stated that the judiciary cannot play into the hands of those whose intentions are to build political narratives through audio tapes leaked on social media.
Justice Minallah further stated that the ones who were “affected” by the audio leak “did not show interest in bringing the matter to the court”, which was an apparent reference to ongoing hearings on PML-N Vice President Maryam and her husband retired captain Mohammad Safdar’s appeals against their convictions in the Avenfield reference.
The high court chief justice stated that “Anything goes viral on social media. How many can the court order inquiries into?”
Questioning the maintainability of the plea, the judge remarked: “It is said about me that I have bought some flat. Should we start an inquiry into that as well?”
Upon this, Ahmed argued the problem was that the “real affected parties” did not come forward.
To this, Justice Minallah replied: “Suppose this audio is legitimate, where is the real clip? Tomorrow, anybody will bring a clip and ask for an inquiry.”
The judge wondered about the identity of those behind the audio leak. “Who has the capability to record the chief justice of Pakistan? Did that person release it or someone sitting in America?”
The chief justice further stated that the court “cannot play into the hands of” political entities trying to build narratives rather than approach the court themselves.
“When they do not approach the court, the court also has to see what their intentions are,” he added. “Who released the audiotape and to whom?”
It is pertinent to note that the Islamabad High Court (IHC) has issued a pre-admission notice to Attorney General Khalid Jawed Khan on a petition seeking a probe into an alleged audio leak involving former chief justice Saqib Nisar.
IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah took up the petition filed by Sindh High Court Bar Association (SHCBA) President Salahuddin Ahmed and judicial commission member Syed Haider Imam Rizvi.
The petition said the alleged audio clip of the former top judge tainted the image of the judiciary and pleaded with the court to constitute a commission comprising a retired judge, lawyer, journalist and members of civil society to ascertain the veracity of the controversial clip.
“The alleged audiotape creates the impression that the judiciary is under the influence of outside forces,” a lawyer representing the petitioners said, adding the judiciary needs to appoint a probe commission to save its reputation.
The court further questioned if the petition was filed against the incumbent chief justice, to which the counsel replied that it pertains to the audio leak involving a former chief justice.
Justice Minallah said the clip in question dates back to the time when Nisar was serving as the chief justice. He noted the judiciary had to confront big challenges with lawyers’ associations playing a role in its independence.
He said the court would first decide whether the petition was maintainable or not. “We have to deal with matters as per the law and avoid judicial activism,” Justice Minallah concluded.