Justice Athar Minallah Says Judges Being Influenced By ‘Political Forces’
Islamabad High Court (IHC) Chief Justice Athar Minallah said that the quality and effectiveness of the administration of justice were inconceivable without an independent judiciary and independent judges.
Addressing a webinar organised by the International Institute for Justice Excellence, The Hague, the IHC justice highlighted the pressures faced by independent judges while hearing high-profile cases, said a report in Dawn.
Speaking about the independent judiciary, he said the independent judges lose their relevance when the judiciary as an institution lacks independence, adding that the political forces also made attempts to influence judicial proceedings and judges.
Giving an example of challenges faced by judges when hearing cases concerning influential personalities, Justice Minallah said: “After deciding a case relating to a political personality, I was informed that a gentleman from outside the country had uploaded a video on social media platforms alleging that I was a beneficiary of a property gifted by the appellant. The details of the apartment were narrated with such confidence that those who did not know me would have been justified in believing the story. It had gone viral.”
In another instance, the judge said he attended a conference in Sept 2019 in Cape Town, South Africa. “Some judges of the Supreme Court and high courts were also attending. Outside the hotel where we were staying, a Cobra sports car was on exhibition. I and a Supreme Court judge had our photograph taken in the car. The photo went viral with the caption that I was in London and that the other person (the apex court judge) was an office-holder of a political party.”
The judge said there were several other such instances when social media was used to make a judge ‘controversial’. In the age of social media, the judges cannot avoid ‘direct or indirect access’ to social media. “It undoubtedly offers many advantages but simultaneously it has given rise to enormous challenges,” he added.
During the address, Justice Minallah also alluded to a contempt of court case against senior journalist Matiullah Jan for criticising a verdict in Justice Qazi Faez Isa case. Justice Minallah said he ‘dismissed the petition in limine [at the start]. If contempt proceedings were to be initiated on the basis of a message uploaded on a social media platform, it would have opened floodgates of petitions.”
He said the dignity and integrity of an independent judge were not so frail and vulnerable so as to be harmed by a tweet on social media platforms.