ISLAMABAD: A three-judge special bench of the Supreme Court (SC) constituted to implement the apex court’s April 20 verdict in the Panama Papers case will examine the final report of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) tasked to probe alleged illegal properties of the Sharif family on Monday.
Headed by Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, the top court’s special bench, on June 22 directed the six-member high-powered inquiry panel to submit its final investigation report on July 10 besides ordering to relist the case after Eidul Fitr vacations subject to the approval of Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar and availability of the bench.
According to the case list for next week issued by the apex court’s registrar office, the bench will examine the final JIT report on Monday at 1:00pm. However, some legal experts believe the probe body may request the apex court for an extension of 15 days if the investigation is not be completed within the stipulated time.
As the investigation into the scandal enters its final round, it has ignited a debate among legal experts over the future course of action by the top court after it receives the final inquiry report.
Questions at the centre of the debate are:
i. Whether the special bench will give the final ruling or new judges will also be included in the bench for this purpose.
ii. Whether the top court will allow both parties to file their input on the JIT report.
iii. Whether the bench will itself decide the question of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s disqualification under Article 62 (1) (f) of the Constitution in light of JIT’s findings.
The five-judge larger bench of the apex court had observed in its April 20 verdict that after the receipt of the final report from the inquiry panel, the matter of the premier’s disqualification shall be considered. “If found necessary for passing an appropriate order in this behalf, respondent No 1 [PM Nawaz] or any other person may be summoned and examined,” said the order.
“It is expected that the same bench will decide the fate of the ruling family by giving the final verdict and notice will issued to respondents as well as the petitioner,” a senior official who did not wish to be named told The Express Tribune.
On the other hand, Chaudhry Faisal Hussain counsel for Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), the petitioner in the case, believes that the SC’s April 20 verdict reflects the case is not being disposed of but being treated as part of the heard case, pending adjudication before the larger bench, headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa.
“The implementation bench was legally constituted to implement the court’s April 20 judgment will be absolved and the matter be referred to same five-judge larger bench, which was headed by Justice Khosa,” he said.
Some legal experts say the two SC judges, who have already disqualified the prime minister in April 20 verdict, will not sit in the bench to give the final ruling. However, a few lawyers say that if the matter is referred to the same larger bench then the two judges namely Justice Khosa and Justice Gulzar Ahmad may themselves recuse to hear the case.
Meanwhile, a three-judge bench of the SC, headed by CJP, will resume hearing of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader Hanif Abbasi’s petition on July 11, seeking disqualification of PTI chief Imran Khan and his party’s general secretary Jahangir Tareen over alleged concealment of assets.