ISLAMABAD: A five-member bench of the Supreme Court on Wednesday heard the review petitions filed by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his family and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar.
The new bench is headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, and includes Justice Gulzar Ahmed, Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed and Justice Ijazul Ahsan.
Hearing the review petitions case, Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed stated that the Panama case verdict had to be decided by the same five-member bench that had announced the April 20 verdict.
He further remarked that the Supreme Court had formed an implementation bench that was to function as per the five-member bench’s directions.
In his petition, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif argued that the decision that was taken by the court should have been ruled by the same three-member bench since Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and Justice Gulzar Ahmed’s had already given their verdict on April 20. The petitions filed by Nawaz’s children, Hassan, Hussain and Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Captain (r) Safdar, as well as Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, argue on similar grounds.
The former PM’s legal counsel, Advocate Khawaja Harris, argued that the July 28 verdict should have been given by a three-member bench as Justice Khosa and Justice Ahmed had already given their decision in the 3-2 split verdict on April 20, dissenting from the majority opinion that called for further investigation against the Sharif family through a joint investigation team.
He argued that the two judges should not have signed the July 28 verdict.
To which, the judges observed the three-member bench was constituted to implement the April 20 verdict, which ceased to exist soon after the completion of an investigation by the JIT. Thus, the five-judge bench was to decide the case in light of the JIT report, they added.
All five judges unanimously disqualified Sharif, though the grounds on which he was disqualified may have been different, observed Justice Khosa. He said the two judges, who had given the dissenting note, didn’t add anything in the July 28 verdict.
Taking his arguments further, Harris said that his client was not given a fair trial since he was neither issued a show-cause notice nor was he given a chance to clarify his position.
Responding to the argument, Justice Ijaz said that the April 20 judgement was not challenged, hence, it was considered accepted. In reply, Harris stated that since it was minority judgment, hence, not challenged.
Harris further argued that it is questionable whether the court could direct National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to conduct an investigation, adding that Nawaz Sharif’s basic rights have been downplayed due to the appointment of a monitoring judge for the NAB investigation.
Responding to the petitioner’s legal counsel’s arguments, Justice Ejaz said that the accountability court will reach a conclusion of the investigation independently following which the investigation can be reviewed and that the petitioners will have a right to argue with the witnesses and JIT members, he added.
Justice Ejaz said that despite the JIT report receiving acclaim, it will be scrutinised in the trial court.
Earlier on Tuesday, the Supreme Court’s three-member bench, headed by Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan and comprising Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed and Justice Ijazul Ehsan, heard a plea submitted by the former prime minister’s children against the hearing of their review petitions by a three-member bench instead of a five-judge bench.
The judges are the same as those on the special implementation bench that supervised the work of the Panama case Joint Investigation Team (JIT).
During the hearing, the counsel for Nawaz’s children, Salman Akram Raja, pleaded the court to form a five-member bench to hear their review petitions. He also pleaded that their review petition against the judgment of the five-member bench be taken up first.
Justice Ejaz observed that the three-judge bench gave the majority verdict in the Panama Papers case and that the decision would not have been different had the three-judge bench given a verdict in the case. However, the bench accepted Raja’s plea and sent a request to the chief justice for the formation of a five-judge bench.
Later in the day, the five-judge bench was announced. It was to be headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and would include Justice Gulzar Ahmed as well as the three judges who were set to hear the case on Tuesday.
During the hearing, the counsel of Nawaz, Khawaja Harris, was also present and presented his arguments.
On August 15, the former prime minister filed three petitions in the Supreme Court to review the Panama Papers verdict which resulted in his disqualification.
The petitions pleaded the apex court to dismiss the petitions filed by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan, Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) chief Sirajul Haq and Awami Muslim League (AML) chief Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed.
The former prime minister, through his petition, argued that the decision passed by the court on July 28 should have been passed by a three-member bench as Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and Justice Gulzar Ahmed’s jurisdiction had expired after their dissenting judgment on April 20.
The petitions also called the commendations and appreciations of the JIT “a gross transgression” of the former prime minister’s right to a fair trial.
The former premier has also filed a request before the apex court to issue a stay order on the implementation of the Supreme Court verdict.
On August 21, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar filed a review petition against the Panama Papers case verdict.
Dar’s petition was filed by lawyers Shahid Hamid and Dr Tariq Hasan, who requested the apex court to null and void it’s July 28 decision and to halt the NAB references against Dar till the verdict on the review petition.
On August 25, Nawaz’s children and son-in-law also challenged the apex court’s July 28 verdict.
One review petition was filed against the three-judge decision and another against the five-judge decision of the apex court.
There is no accusation or evidence against Safdar, Nawaz’s son-in-law, regarding the purchase of the Sharifs’ London properties but still NAB was ordered to file a reference against him, the petition claimed.
It said further that the posting of a monitoring judge to oversee implementation of the verdict is against the law, explaining that the accountability court cannot operate independently after the appointment of an implementation judge.
The petitioners claim that their basic rights have been infringed upon as their objections to the JIT’s final probe report were not taken into consideration. Moreover, it is stated that the JIT investigation was incomplete and thus cannot be used as a basis for filing a NAB reference.
It has been argued in the review petition that the original five-member bench could not have delivered the final verdict as two judges from that bench were no longer part of the proceedings since the JIT’s work was overseen by the special three-member implementation bench.