A judge cannot do whatever he wants to, SC chides Justice Isa

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday rebuked Justice Qazi Faez Isa and reminded him that the job security of being a judge of the apex court did not mean that a judge could do whatever he wants.

A 10-member larger SC bench comprising Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Maqbool Baqar, Justice Manzoor Ahmed Malik, Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel, Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Yahya Afridi, Justice Qazi Muhammad Amin Ahmed and Justice Aminuddin Khan heard the review petitions seeking removal of paragraphs 2 to 11 of the June 19, 2020, verdict.

On June 19, 2020, seven judges of a 10-judge bench quashed a presidential reference against Justice Isa but also ordered the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to conduct an inquiry into the judge’s family members’ foreign assets and submit a report to the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC).

During the course of proceedings, Justice Isa said that he would submit a written response over three questions asked by the court during the previous hearing on Tuesday. A judge is not a government employee, he added.

Upon this, Justice Bandial said that the apex court had ruled that the judges were also part of the service of Pakistan. He asked whether corruption was not a problem for the judges. Job security does not mean that a judge could do whatever he wanted, and fortunately, it is not a case of corruption, he added.

Justice Isa said that the lawyers of bar councils had submitted their written arguments.

Justice Bandial said that he was not sensible enough to be satisfied with the written arguments. The court’s attitude should be the same with every litigant, he added.

Hamid Khan, a lawyer for the bar councils, argued that the SJC became inactive with the revocation of reference. He said that the matter should not have been referred to the FBR as the decision in that regard was wrong.

He argued that it was clear that the presidential reference was annulled. When the reference was annulled, the matter was also settled in the SJC and no further action could be taken, he added.

Justice Muneeb Akhtar said that there was no mention of revocation of reference in the court’s decision, which stated that the SJC would review the FBR’s content.

The decision further stated that the matter should be placed before the SJC, which could take further action using its suo moto jurisdiction, he added. Justice Bandial said that the information could be provided as long as the council was active.

Hamid said that the children and family were neither parties in the SJC nor in the SC. They were not made parties in any case and on any platform, he added.

Addressing Hamid, Justice Bandial said that he wanted to say that the judge’s code of conduct did not include his children and family. There was a court decision in that regard and a judge should also be very careful about his family and children, he said. The issue of assets beyond means was very important, he added.

Justice Mansoor Ali Shah questioned whether a decision could be given without hearing a person.

Hamid asked that if Justice Isa’s family was not a party here, how could action be taken against them. They could not be made a party under Article 209, nor did the Code of Conduct for Judges mention anything about it, he added.

Justice Bandial said that the apex court had made observations regarding the families of judges. The case for assets beyond means was not limited to public officials, he reiterated.

Hamid replied that if the wife and children were not dependent (on a judge) then the case could not be filed. The SJC is not a permanent body, it could only be formed if there is a reference, he added.

To this, the justice said that the SJC was permanent and he was a part of it but he separated himself from its proceedings.

Hamid said that taking a suo motu notice was at the SJC’s discretion, which, however, could not be directed to do so.

Justice Bandial said that the FBR report had not been reviewed by the SJC till date. The registrar had the material to present to the council, he added.

Hamid, the lawyer for the Supreme Court Bar Association, Pakistan Bar Council and Balochistan Bar Council, completed his arguments, which were adopted by Rashid Rizvi, the lawyer for the Sindh Bar Council and Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists.

When Additional Attorney General (AAG) Amir Rehman started giving arguments on behalf of the federal government, he was directed by Justice Bandial to provide his written submissions to the court.

Aamir said that Sarina Isa did not get a chance to be heard. She had testified in the court and presented documents, he said, adding the review petitions could only address errors in the decision.

The government’s lawyer said that Sarina was heard without being a party. There should be no restrictions on the right to a fair trial, he added. He further said that the court did not rule against Sarina.

He argued that the court decision directed the review of statements in accordance with the law. Even if the apex court had not taken the notice, the FBR could took notice on its own, he added.

Justice Yahya Afridi asked under which law instructions had been given to the tax authorities. It was a very sensitive case so the court gave a deadline and giving a deadline to the FBR was not an illegal order, he added.

The AAG said that Sarina was given a full opportunity of a formal hearing. Justice Bandial said that according to Justice Isa and his wife, the FBR did not take notice.

On this, Justice Isa remarked that he never raised that point and his lawyer had stated it.

Aamir said that according to the FBR, Sarina could not explain the sources of income. The points raised had been discussed in the court decision, he added.

Justice Bandial said that the FBR reviewed the matter only under the tax laws.

The SC adjourned the hearing of review petitions in the case till Thursday.

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