Judicial commission and urge for a liable justice

The Federal Government on Saturday formed a three-member judicial commission to probe the veracity of audio leaks and their impact on the independence of the judiciary. The commission will be headed by Supreme Court senior Judge Justice Qazi Faez Isa. It would be comprised of Balochistan High Court (BHC) Chief Justice Naeem Akhtar Afghan and Islamabad High Court (IHC) Chief Justice Aamer Farooq. As said the commission will work under the provisions of the Inquiry Commission Act 2017 and will probe the genuineness of the audio leaks and its worst effect on the judiciary.

A series of audio clips of Tele conversations between various individuals including close relatives and family members of serving adjudicators and retired judges of the senior judiciary had surfaced in recent months while those audio clips were prominently aired and published by the mainstream print and electronic media, while those controversial audio clips got viral over the social media in the country and abroad. The contentious audio clips created doubts and suspicions regarding the senior judiciary’s independence, impartiality, and uprightness and the conduct of the Chief Justices/judges of superior courts in the delivery of justice. Although, there had been rumors in public regarding the trading of justice, the availability of paid witnesses and frontmen of the adjudicators who help facilitate the criminals in bartering bail/pardon and immunity in reward of money/ plots or luxuries vehicles for the adjudicators and their family members. Meanwhile, the former Army Chief General Retired Qamar Javed Bajwa categorically accused the senior judges in his recent interview of shedding off merit and transparency in their under-trial cases in the fulfillment of mere desires of their family members, spouses, and children through the announcement of biased verdicts and serving of dented justice. However, the recent widely circulated controversial audios have been witnessed by the public across the world on electronic, print, and social media, alleging the judiciary and former Chief Justices/judges of untransparent conduct in respect of their official duty that undoubtedly owes high importance, sensitivity along with the religious and national obligation.

The ongoing political and constitutional crises are worsening rapidly with every passing day, as the combatant political groups, top bureaucrats as well as the people wearing black robes are not ready to give in to their personal ego and abide by the code of conduct in a larger interest of the nation. Unfortunately, the warring parties had brought political issues to the court to manipulate the law and get verdicts of their own choice. Inter alia, the courts fell prey to the Politicians’ scheme attracted controversies and criticism in an effort to evaluate political strategy and dispel justice to the self-inflicted victim. Meanwhile, political groups unashamedly gave a selected appreciation of the court decisions and otherwise, they harassed the judges, politicize the jury, and undermined the judicial process. Unfortunately, the battle for control and institutional politics badly hurt the functioning of the institutions, and departmental issues of the judiciary were brought to the streets for public discussion that damaged the institution. The recent audio leaks further eroded public trust and raised serious concerns in the public regarding the conduct of judges along with the independence, impartiality, and integrity of the superior courts. The government has constituted an independent judicial commission to ascertain the veracity of the audio clips and differentiate facts from fiction.

Accountability and reformation is an ongoing process that is a need of all public institutions because several government departments including the judiciary, the military, the Federal Ombudsmen Department, the ECP, NAB, Anti-Corruption, Custom Department, FBR, and Parliament had been struck by multiple institutional ailments including corruption, institutional politics and bias as well as abuse of power, waste of resources and nepotism. Although, accountability of adjudicators is essential, yet it should not be a part of any political agenda of the incumbent rulers.

Earlier, the sitting government moved the Supreme Court Practice and Procedure Bill-2023 aimed at slashing certain powers from the office of the Chief Justice and now it has formed an independent judicial commission to ascertain the origin of the audio leaks pertaining to the senior judiciary. Under the Constitution, the independence, integrity, and character of Chief Justices/judges are of utmost importance for maintaining public confidence in the justice system, while the current government has vested this responsibility in three senior judges to evaluate the charges against their colleagues and if evidence proved, suggest actions/ reforms for their institution. So, this important pillar of the state could be pure from politics, internal biases, and judges’ rivalry, which would surely lead to the provision of a fair, and fearless justice to the public but also ensure the same in the lower courts across the country.