ISLAMABAD: As the Supreme Court’s chief justice designate Mian Saqib Nisar takes oath tomorrow (Dec 31), his first challenge will be composition of the larger bench that will hear the Panamagate case.
The SC in November took up a slew of petitions seeking PM Nawaz Sharif’s disqualification in the wake of Panama Papers, which in April revealed that the PM’s family members had stashed money in offshore companies.
The outgoing Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali, who was also heading the bench and conducted 10 hearings of the case, adjourned the case till first week of January. His retirement, due on December 30 (today), will dissolve the current bench.
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Justice Nisar, who will remain the top judge of the country for more than two years, will reconstitute the bench with many options available to him.
He can replace the outgoing CJP by sitting himself in the bench or hand over the command of the new bench to Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, who will be the senior most judge, once Justice Nisar assumes office.
Likewise, after the retirement of Justice Jamali, Justice Khosa is the most senior among four judges, who heard Panama Papers case. The PTI chief Imran Khan has expressed desire that the same four judges, who were part of the bench, should hear the case.
If the new CJP does not preside over the bench then a judge belonging either to K-P or Sindh will most likely replace the outgoing CJP.
Both the ruling PML-N and the PTI are eagerly waiting for the new CJP’s decision about constitution of the new bench. The legal experts believe that composition of the larger bench will be important in this high-profile matter.
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Sources in the SC’s administration revealed to The Express Tribune that tentatively the fixture branch has prepared cause-list of five proposed benches for the next week. However, composition of benches will be finalised by the new chief justice tomorrow (Saturday).
An official also revealed that fixture branch has also been instructed to prepare the files of Panamagate case, adding that the new CJP may take decision in this regard (tomorrow) Saturday in view of availability of judges concerned. The official confirmed that all judges will sit in the Supreme Court Islamabad’s registry the next week.
The legal experts have advised the new CJ against sitting in the larger bench.
Akram Sheikh – counsel for PM Nawaz’s children – said he was ready to argue the case next week as the government is not concerned about new composition of the larger bench.
He revealed that he will produce all documentary evidences to establish the money trail for acquiring the London flats by the PM’s family.
Panamagate hearing: Third offshore company of Sharifs crops up
Sheikh said Qatari Prince Shaikh Hamad bin Jassim, who submitted a letter to establish the money trail, has old relationship with the Sharif family as he was the first foreign dignitary, who had met PM Sharif while he was in prison. “The prince is ready to record his statement as the top court can depute a session judge or lawyer for this purpose,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 30th, 2016.
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