–Justice Bandial asks govt’s counsel to explain why SC judge was bound to disclose family properties
–Dr Naseem claims FBR shelved complaint against Justice Isa because ‘they were too afraid’
–‘Many things happen through the divine in this country,’ says senior judge
ISLAMABAD: The chief judge of the Supreme Court full court hearing a plea challenging the filing of a presidential reference in the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) against SC Justice Qazi Faez Isa on Wednesday observed that there was no allegation of corruption or dishonesty against the senior apex court judge.
In response to the federal government’s counsel, Dr Farogh Naseem’s argument that Justice Isa had not provided the money trail for the properties of his family members, Justice Umar Ata Bandial observed that there was no allegation of corruption or money attained through illegal means against Justice Isa.
He noted that undeclared foreign property comes under the purview of the tax law, and asked Dr Naseem to explain the legal reasons on the basis of which Justice Isa was bound to disclose his family properties. Justice Bandial asked whether the accused judge had carried out any misconduct. He further said that the reference cannot be filed on tax violation and the case came under the purview of Article 209 of the Constitution of Pakistan – which pertains to action against a judge when he has been guilty of misconduct.
Justice Bandial observed that Justice Isa had declared enough income to justify the acquisition of these properties in 2008-2009.
The federal government’s lawyer maintained that proceedings were initiated against a judge in India when the properties of his family members were not declared. However, Justice Bandial asked Dr Naseem to point towards Pakistani law which puts a legal obligation on the accused judge to disclose properties of his family members.
On being questioned on proceedings under the tax law, the federal counsel maintained that officials of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) were too afraid to proceed against Justice Isa and his family members. He stated before the court that FBR officials refused to act until the conclusion of the Supreme Judicial Council’s proceedings.
Another judge on the bench, Justice Maqbool Baqar inquired what prompted the federal government to file the reference against Justice Isa.
He observed that there was a concern by the petitioner that the reference was filed because certain quarters were unhappy with one of the verdicts authored by Justice Isa. Review petitions were also filed against the ruling of Justice Isa and questions of misconduct were raised.
Justice Baqar further asked whether the Assets Recovery Unit (ARU) had checked the credentials of the journalist, Abdul Hameed Dogar, who had first given the information on these properties of the apex court’s judge’s family.
“Have you asked who gave him this information and what was his background,” asked Justice Baqar. Many things happen through the divine in this country, he observed.
Dr Naseem replied that Dogar had refused to disclose his source, and argued that journalists could go to any lengths to protect their sources.
Meanwhile, Justice Mansoor Ali Shah questioned Dr Naseem’s argument that Justice Isa had revealed everything except the source of funds to purchase these flats and how those funds were transferred to the United Kingdom. Justice Shah asked why Justice Isa should have to reveal the money trail. Tell us which law bounds him to reveal the source of these funds? he asked.
Justice Shah said that the petitioner was maintaining that his family members were independent and they should be approached about the source of funds.
He further asked the federal counsel to furnish details of complaints of individuals which are received by the ARU against public office holders and the actions which are initiated against such.
The federal lawyer read out the Supreme Judicial Counsel’s showcause notice stating that Justice Isa had filed the reply over the notice therefore his petition against the reference was not maintainable.
The court later adjourned the hearing till Thursday.
The federal government in May last year filed separate references with the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) against two Supreme Court judges, Justice Isa and Justice Karim Khan Agha, accusing the two judges of concealing their assets and recommend action against them under Article 209 of the Constitution.
According to Article 209, if the SJC finds the judge to be “incapable of performing the duties of his office or has been guilty of misconduct”, the president may remove the said judge from office.
Subsequently in August, Justice Isa approached the apex court and requested it to form a full-court bench comprising all eligible judges to hear his petition against the reference while accusing then chief justice of Pakistan Asif Saeed Khosa of “showing personal bias against him”.
He had argued that a judicial precedent for constituting a bench comprising the full court is already available in former chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry vs the president of Pakistan through secretary and others.
Later in September, he moved another petition making a similar request. The judge was of the view that matters narrated in accompanying civil miscellaneous application dated August 26 – “which may for the sake of brevity be read as a part hereof” – demonstrates the necessity for hearing by such a full-court bench.
“The petition also raises a number of important constitutional questions, including that of the independence of the judiciary, the formation of an independent opinion by the president, obtaining federal cabinet’s approval and other vital issues of surveillance, and the manner and method of collecting evidence against a judge of the Supreme Court and his family,” he had said.