ISLAMABAD : The federal government lodged a plea on Tuesday, citing a “conflict of interest,” against three out of five members of a larger bench that is currently hearing petitions regarding the inquiry commission investigating audio leaks involving judges.
Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Atta Bandial is among the three members the government has requested to recuse themselves from the hearing. The government has urged the formation of a new bench to handle the petitions against the high-powered commission, which is led by Justice Qazi Faez Isa.
The petition specifically appeals for Chief Justice Umar Atta Bandial, Justice Ijazul Ahsan, and Justice Munib Akhtar to abstain from presiding over the audio leak case, emphasizing that “three respected judges should refuse to sit in the five-member larger bench.”
Furthermore, the plea highlights that the objection raised by Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Usman Awan against the presence of the chief justice in a previous hearing on May 25 was not accepted.
The federal government argues that one of the leaked audios before the inquiry commission is connected to a family member of the Chief Justice, stating that judicial decisions and the code of conduct prohibit a judge from presiding over matters involving their relatives.
The petition also cites the precedent set in the Arsalan Iftikhar case, in which former Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary recused himself from the bench.
Additionally, the application points out that the alleged audio leaks are also relevant to Justice Ahsan and Justice Munib. The audio involving Pervaiz Elahi mentions Justice Ahsan, while the conversation between the two women refers to Justice Munib, the petition contends, providing reasons for these two judges to recuse themselves.
Judicial Commission to Investigate Audio Leaks
A high-powered judicial commission, comprising Chief Justice Umar Atta Bandial, Justice Naeem Akhtar Afghan, and Justice Aamer Farooq, was assigned on May 20 to investigate the audio leaks concerning the judiciary. The commission has been given a 30-day deadline to complete its inquiry.
Among the various audio leaks, the commission will examine the authenticity of the alleged call between former Punjab Chief Minister Chaudhry Parvez Elahi and a current top court judge, as well as another call between CM Elahi and a Supreme Court lawyer regarding the formation of an apex court bench.
Following these developments, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan has raised questions about the government’s “deliberate omission” of the terms of reference (TORs) and has challenged the composition of the three-member judicial commission on audio leaks.
On behalf of Khan, Babar Awan, the PTI chief’s lawyer and party leader, has filed a plea requesting the court to declare the notification for establishing the commission null and void.
Similarly, President of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) Abid Zubairi has also challenged the audio leaks commission and has been summoned to appear before the panel as part of the inquiry.
Earlier, Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar stated that the government did not consult Chief Justice Umar Atta Bandial before forming the commission.
In response to these petitions, the Supreme Court has halted the proceedings of the commission and suspended the federal government’s notification regarding its formation. The order was issued by a five-member SC bench, led by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial and including Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Syed Hasan Azhar Rizvi, and Justice Shahid Waheed.