- Have all avenues been exhausted?
A lawyers’ movement in favour of impugned Supreme Court judge Mr Justice Qazi Faez Isa seems to have been launched by a decision of various provincial bar councils to boycott courts on October 15, which coincides with the first meeting of the Supreme Judicial Council to hear the case. Though the Lawyers’ Movement which led to the restoration of Mr Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry as Chief Justice of Pakistan is remembered as one of the great blows of the legal community in favour of judicial independence, others also remember it as a time when the law courts could not really function, and a learned profession became the refuge of rowdyism and hooliganism. Is that medicine perhaps too much for the disease? Has the government indeed exhausted all avenues of investigation before it took the dreaded step of reference to the Supreme Judicial Council?
The outstanding issue is whether Mr Justice Isa made a misdeclaration by failing to mention property in the name of his wife and children. That taxation issue has not been determined by a taxation authority. If the SJC determines that Mr Justice Isa has made a misdeclaration, it will be obliged, along with any recommendation to the President, to recommend to a tax authority, to take the necessary action of penalising the judge.
It would thus be in the fitness of things to have the matter dealt with in the first instance by the concerned taxation authority, and then, if that authority decides to proceed further to a penalty, to intimate the government so that it could take necessary action. At the moment, it should be remembered, the SJC is being forced to act as a taxation authority of first instance. If the matter was handled by the proper authority, there would be less of an impression that lawyers could use in the struggle for judicial independence. It cannot be their purpose to give the impression that they are pressing for members of the legal community from being freed from their legal obligations, and in particular for judges to be freed from the requirements of judicial propriety.