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SCBA and the government are slow to respond to the issue of meddling

ISLAMABAD: Tensions are brewing within the Supreme Court Bar Association regarding the lack of decision-making regarding a letter penned by six judges of the Islamabad High Court, accusing intelligence agencies of interfering in judicial matters.

A similar hesitancy is noticeable from the government’s side, which might refrain from providing any response or suggestions to the Supreme Court, viewing it as an internal matter to be resolved within the institution itself.

The SCBA appears hesitant in formulating a plan to safeguard the judiciary’s independence, as mandated by the Supreme Court, which is examining a suo motu case prompted by the March 25 letter from the six IHC judges.

In its order dated April 3, the apex court directed the SCBA and the Pakistan Bar Council to submit their proposals by April 25, following thorough consultations within their respective bodies.

Expressing confidence in the association’s ability to provide practical suggestions for establishing a robust and independent judiciary, the SC anticipated solutions that would safeguard the integrity and impartial administration of justice, free from external pressures.

However, some members of the SCBA’s 26th executive committee disclosed to Dawn that despite calls for an urgent meeting to strategize the association’s response, no such gathering seems imminent in the near future.

A senior member even requested a meeting to be convened at the earliest, preferably on or before April 25, to discuss the judges’ letter’s contents and analyze the implications of the SC’s April 3 directive regarding allegations of executive interference.

The proposed meeting should also address suitable responses and actions to uphold judicial independence, tackle executive encroachments, and devise recommendations and strategies to prevent future interference, thereby strengthening the rule of law.

When reached for comment, SCBA President Shahzad Shaukat dismissed claims of inaction, stating that a consultative meeting has indeed been scheduled for May 8.

“We are committed to providing a fitting response on behalf of the association to the Supreme Court—one that befits our premier status,” he affirmed. Shaukat added that the SCBA has solicited input from its members, which will be deliberated upon during the May 8 meeting to craft an official statement on behalf of the association.

PBC’s stance

When asked about the absence of a meeting, Farooq Naek, the chairman of the executive committee of the Pakistan Bar Council, clarified that a meeting had already taken place on April 5. During this session, a resolution was passed, advocating for an impartial investigation by a judicial commission composed of sitting judges from the Supreme Court to address the concerns raised by the six judges from the Islamabad High Court.

The resolution underscored the significance of judges expressing their concerns through a written letter, highlighting its importance in maintaining the independence of the judicial system. It stressed the necessity of a thorough investigation into these allegations to safeguard the law, Constitution, and fundamental rights of Pakistani citizens.

“This resolution serves as our response to the Supreme Court, and it will remain unchanged,” Mr. Naek clarified.

Govt reluctance

According to a source familiar with the situation, the federal government is unlikely to provide any response or recommendations to the Supreme Court. The government perceives this issue as an internal matter to be resolved within the institution itself.

Furthermore, the source explained that there is no necessity for a response when the Islamabad High Court judges have accused the government or institutions of interfering in judicial affairs. However, the government will comply with any directives issued by the court.

Given that several petitions have been filed before the apex court, the source suggested that the Supreme Court may opt to issue notices to the respondents and offer another opportunity for bar associations to submit their responses.

Another plea

On Wednesday, the Balochistan Bar Council and the Balochistan High Court Bar Association filed separate petitions before the Supreme Court. They requested the court to declare illegal interference in judicial affairs as unconstitutional and unlawful, posing a threat to the rule of law, access to justice, and judicial independence. Additionally, they urged the court to direct the federal government to take lawful action against those found responsible for such interference.

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