Justice Jillani recuses himself from heading commission as SC takes suo-motu notice of IHC judges’ letter

— Jilani says TORs for inquiry are not ‘strictly’ relevant to the subject under consideration

— CJP forms 7-member larger bench to take up six IHC judges letter

ISLAMABAD: Former chief justice of Pakistan (CJP) Tassaduq Hussain Jillani has got release of heading the inquiry commission constituted to probe allegations of interference by intelligence agencies in judicial affairs as the Supreme Court on Monday took suo-motu notice of the matter.

A week earlier, six out the eight judges of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) in a letter addressed 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.

The IHC judges who wrote the letter included Mohsin Akhtar Kayani, Tariq Mehmood Jahangiri, Babar Sattar, Sardar Ejaz Ishaq Khan, Arbab Muhammad Tahir and Saman Rafat Imtiaz.

Following the allegation, demand emerged from various quarters for a probe into the investigation, amid which CJP Qazi Faez Isa summoned a full court meeting of the SC judges.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday met CJP Isa, and the two decided to form a commission to investigate the concerns of interference in judicial affairs following the cabinet’s approval.

On Saturday, the federal cabinet approved the constitution of an inquiry commission headed by ex-CJP Jillani to probe the allegations and decide whether these are true or otherwise. Under the Terms of Reference (ToR), the inquiry commission would fully probe the allegations levelled by the IHC judges and decide whether these are true or otherwise. It would also investigate whether any personnel of intelligence agencies were directly responsible for interfering in judicial matters.

On Sunday, lawyers and civil society members — in a joint letter — had urged the top court to take “cognisance of the matter in its jurisdiction under Article 184(3) of the Constitution as this issue eminently relates to public interest and to the enforcement of fundamental rights”.

They had called on the top court to initiate suo motu proceedings as it rejected the “powerless” one-man commission appointed by the federal cabinet to probe the claims. The letter said the apex court should form a bench of all available judges to hear the matter and proceedings should be telecast live for public consumption. It also urged the court to look into the allegations levelled by retired justice Shaukat Siddiqui, besides the recent claims of meddling in judicial affairs.

In a letter addressed to PM Shehbaz on Monday, Jillani thanked the premier and the federal cabinet for reposing confidence in him to head the commission. He also expressed gratitude to CJP Isa and Justice Mansoor Ali Shah for expressing confidence in him.

Jillani said that he had gone through the letter by the IHC judges, the ToRs approved by the federal cabinet and Article 209.

Article 209 of the Constitution empowers the SJC to carry out inquiries into the capacity and conduct of Supreme Court and high court judges.

“Since the letter is addressed to the members of SJC and its chairman the chief justice of Pakistan, it would be violative of judicial propriety for me to inquire into a matter which may fall within the jurisdiction of a constitutional body which is the SJC or the Supreme Court of Pakistan itself,” he said.

He further said that the ToRs for the inquiry were “strictly not germane to the subject matter of the letter”, noting that the IHC judges had asked the SJC for guidance.

“Towards the end the request made in the letter is for an ‘institutional consultation’ in terms of the mechanism suggested in the said letter. Though the letter in question may not strictly fall within the parameters of Article 209 of the Constitution, but the honourable chief justice of Pakistan being a paterfamilias may address and resolve the issues raised in the letter at the institutional level,” he said, adding that he was recusing himself from heading the commission.

Meanwhile, the top court took suo motu notice of the allegations levelled by the six IHC judges. CJP Isa constituted a seven-member larger bench to hear the matter.

According to the roster issued here, the bench will comprise the chief justice, Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, Justice Yahya Afridi, Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail, Justice Athar Minallah, Justice Musarrat Hilali and Justice Naeem Akhtar Afghan — all available judges on principal seat Islamabad. The case will be taken up on Wednesday (April 3) at 11:30am.


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