Commission to probe audio leaks related to judiciary


Justice Isa-led commission includes Justice Naeem Akhtar Afghan and Justice Aamer Farooq; CJP Bandial not consulted; Reputation of institutions was affected by audio leaks, says Tarar

The federal government on Saturday formed a high-powered judicial commission headed by Justice Qazi Faez Isa of the Supreme Court to probe the audio leaks related to the judiciary.

Justice Naeem Akhtar Afghan and Justice Aamer Farooq are members of the judicial body.The commission has been tasked to complete the job within 30 days.

Among the multiple audio leaks, the commission will also probe into the veracity of the alleged call between former Punjab chief minister Chaudhry Parvez Elahi and a sitting SC judge as well as another call between CM Elahi and a SC lawyer over the constitution of an apex court bench.

Sharing the reasons behind constituting the committee, the cabinet division’s notification stated that it was a result of the recent widely circulated controversial audios pertaining to the judiciary including the former chief justice and judges of the Supreme Court which raised “serious apprehensions about the independence, impartiality and uprightness of the Chief Justices/Judges of the Superior Courts in the administration of justice”. The government said the audio leaks raised serious apprehensions about the independence of the judiciary in the public interest; therefore, it has constituted the commission under Section 3 of the Pakistan Commissions of the Inquiry Act, 2017.

It stated that such audio leaks have eroded public trust and serious concerns have been raised by the general public regarding the independence, impartiality and uprightness of the chief justice and judges of the superior courts.

The notification mentioned that the judiciary is one of the main pillars of the Constitution and the society’s confidence gets shattered when the independence of the judiciary is tarnished.

“It is imperative to inquire into the authenticity, correctness and veracity of these audio leaks in order to restore not just the credibility of the judiciary but also the public trust and confidence in the Judiciary in the larger public interest, as a matter of definite public importance,” it added.

This dirty saga of audio leaks began soon after former prime minister Imran Khan was ousted from office last year through a no-confidence motion. However, it took an ugly turn when a series of leaks started coming to the fore related to sitting judges, their family members and the leaders of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf.

PTI Chairman Khan had also approached the Supreme Court seeking intervention in the matter but no action was taken in this regard.

The terms of reference of the commission include inquiring the authenticity of the audio leaks allegedly concerning the judiciary; probe into the accuracy of allegations surfacing on print, electronic and social media allegedly involving LHC top judge Muhammad Ameer Bhatti’s son-in-law influencing judicial proceedings before the provincial top court; to determine violation, if any, of the integrity of the process of administration of justice, independence of judiciary, right to fair trial and equality of citizens; to determine the liability incurred by any or all persons named in the alleged audio leaks against or any other person or public office holders including under the Pakistan Penal Code, 1860 or any other law; and to determine as to whether any disciplinary proceedings are attracted.

The TORs also include fixing the responsibility of any person or public office holder aiding and abetting by any act in violation of the laws of Pakistan so determined; recommending any necessary legal action by any agency, department or person; inquiring into and fixing responsibility with regards who is making the audio and whether they are fake or fabricated, while also recommending action to be taken against them; and the commission may inquire into any matter related to the case in the interests of justice.

The notification mentioned that the commission shall have all the powers granted to it under the Act and including those mentioned in section 10 of the Act. It directed all executive authorities — in federation or provinces — to comply with and aid the commission in discharging its function as well as comply with its directives.

“The Commission will be entitled to establish a Secretariat and appoint Secretary for the stated inquiry at the cost of the Federal Government. The Attorney General for Pakistan shall assist the Commission and provide the Commission with all documents and material that it requires,” the government’s notification read.

The commission, according to the notification, shall initiate the inquiry immediately and conclude the inquiry. The Justice Isa-led commission has been asked to submit its report to the federal government within 30 days, while time will be granted if required by the commission.

Meanwhile, Federal Minister for Law Azam Nazeer Tarar said that Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial was not consulted before the formation of the probe panel.

The minister further said that the LHC Chief Justice Muhammad Ameer Bhatti has also not been included in the commission.

When asked to comment on the need for a probe into the matter, Tarar said: “The reputation of the institutions was affected by the audio leaks”.

The minister further stated that the commission had been formed under the Pakistan Commissions of the Inquiry Act, 2017, which authorised the federal government to constitute a commission.

He said that the federal government had formed the commission under this law earlier as well.He said that one of the senior-most judges of the Supreme Court had been made the commission’s chief.

However, the commission formed has been tasked with probing only the recent round of audio leaks that began this year and either pertain to the judiciary or involve sitting and former judges. The government said the commission will have “all the powers that are granted to it under Pakistani Commissions of the Inquiry Act 2017” while directing executive authorities in the federation and the provinces to act in aid of the commission in discharge of its functions and to comply with any of its directions.