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Judicial Commission Announces Public Proceedings for Investigation into Audio Leaks

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The high-powered judicial commission established to investigate audio leaks pertaining to the judiciary has declared that the proceedings of its inquiry will be made accessible to the public. Headed by Supreme Court (SC) Judge Justice Qazi Faez Isa, the commission held its inaugural hearing in the Supreme Court’s courtroom number 7. The commission, consisting of Chief Justice Aamer Farooq from the Islamabad High Court and Chief Justice Naeem Akhtar Afghan from the Balochistan High Court, aims to complete its investigation within 30 days, as mandated by the federal government.

The formation of the commission follows the circulation of controversial audios relating to the judiciary, including former Chief Justices and judges of the Supreme Court, which raised concerns about the independence and integrity of the judiciary in the administration of justice. The government, acknowledging the significance of these audio leaks in undermining public confidence in the judiciary, constituted the commission under the Pakistan Commissions of the Inquiry Act, 2017.

During the initial proceedings, Justice Isa inquired about the legal basis for establishing the commission, to which Attorney General Mansoor Usman Awan responded that it was constituted under the Commission of Inquiry Act, 2016. The commission then announced its decision to make the proceedings public, while also reserving the option to review requests for in-camera sessions if sensitive matters arise.

Justice Isa directed that the proceedings take place at the Supreme Court building in Islamabad and underscored the commission’s responsibility to appoint a secretary. Notably, the commission mentioned the inclusion of two elderly women among those who will be investigated and expressed a willingness to conduct proceedings in Lahore if requested.

The commission instructed the attorney general to provide mobile phones and SIM cards for the commission’s use, with the phone number to be made public. Furthermore, they directed the attorney general to engage the Punjab Forensic Science Agency (PFSA) for the verification of the audio leaks. Emphasizing the importance of establishing the authenticity of the audio recordings before drawing conclusions, Justice Isa insisted on the presence of a forensic agency representative during the proceedings to facilitate immediate verification if needed.

Importantly, the commission clarified that it holds the authority to issue summons but will strive to avoid doing so whenever possible. Justice Isa affirmed that the commission would not interfere with the jurisdiction of the Supreme Judicial Council, and its actions would be limited to determining facts. To ensure transparency, the commission declared that all its actions and orders would be shared on a dedicated website, and updates would be uploaded in PDF format to prevent alterations.

Following the initial hearing, the commission directed the attorney general to issue notices to all relevant parties, with a provision for posting them outside residences if necessary. The attorney general was also instructed to submit the audio recordings and four certified transcripts by Wednesday, along with the names, contact numbers, and addresses of the individuals involved. If conversations between two parties pertain to a third party, the commission recognized the right of the third party to participate in the proceedings.

The next session of the commission is scheduled for Saturday, May 27, at 10 am. It will delve into various audio leaks, including conversations between politicians, lawyers, and judges, with the objective of conducting a thorough investigation.

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