SC issues clarification on controversy surrounding exemption from body search at airports

Top court spokesperson says letter on body search written to Aviation Ministry only to highlight “anomaly”

An airport staffer walks past the entrance of international departures at the Islamabad airport. — Reuters/File
  • Top judge declines use of the VIP lounge at Islamabad airport.
  • CJP Isa’s spouse herself went into cubicle of ASF for body search.
  • Spox says letter “surprisingly found its way to the media”. 

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has clarified that it never sought exemption for serving judges’ wives from body search at airports, stating that a letter was written to the Aviation Ministry to highlight an “anomaly,” The News reported on Tuesday.

Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa Monday declined the use of the VIP lounge at the Islamabad airport as well as the use of a luxury limousine, which takes the VIPs right up to the aircraft, said SC Public Relations Officer (PRO) Shahid Kamboyo in the letter.

The official added that body search exemption cards for spouses of judges have not been received and the spouse of CJP Isa herself went into the cubicle of the ASF and was searched by a lady officer.

The recording by cameras installed at the airport would confirm this; no exemption sought, nor given, it further noted.

The PRO, in the letter, addressed to Saif Anjum, Secretary Aviation, and Major General Adnan Asif Jah Shad, Director General (DG) Airport Security Force (ASF), submitted that body-search exemption cards for spouses have not been received.

He further informed that while departing from Pakistan on December 16, 2023, CJP Isa’s wife herself went into the cubicle of the ASF and was searched by a lady officer.

“Justice Isa was offered, but he declined, the use of the VIP lounge at Islamabad Airport,” says the letter, adding that the chief justice also declined the use of the luxury limousine, which drives the VIPs right up to the aircraft.

The PRO said in his letter: “Dear Sirs, this is with reference to your letter of 12th October, 2023, which surprisingly found its way to the media immediately after Justice Qazi Faez Isa and his wife left Pakistan for Turkiye during the Supreme Court’s winter vacations.”

The SC PRO further submitted that “in the interest of full disclosure. kindly also disclose the Registrar of the Supreme Court’s letter of 21st September, 2023 to correct the misconceptions.”

The body-search exemption rule was not made by the SC nor was exemption sought, the letter read, adding that the Registrar had simply pointed out an anomaly, which was that the spouses of retired Supreme Court judges were exempt from body-search, but those of serving judges were not.

“Your letter, while resolving the anomaly, does not offer an explanation,” says the letter adding that neither the ASF nor the government of Pakistan is concerned about the security breach.

Narrating the facts, the SC PRO pointed out the “coincidentally” interesting timing of the letter, written 66 days ago, now coming into the public domain, immediately on Justice Isa’s departure from Pakistan.

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