ISLAMABAD: The top court judge Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed has urged the Sharif family to show ‘faith in the judiciary rather than the streets’.
Another judge Asif Saeed Khan Khosa, who is heading the five-judge bench hearing the family’s review petitions, also assured the ruling family that they are fair to all, adding that though the court gave a verdict against him in this case, he had also gotten relief from the same judiciary in the past.
Likewise, Justice Khosa said that if his rights were infringed, the court will be there to come to his aid. He referred to the example of the SC’s suo motu on the public hanging of convicts during the Ziaul Haq era, explaining that the court is even bound to protect the fundamental rights of worst criminals. “We are the defenders of the rights of citizens”, Justice Khosa said. He also cited an Indian judgment which said, ‘justice may be blind, but a judge should not’.
Justice Khosa also said that the government can amend the Constitution to provide for the option of appeal against SC verdicts under Article 184 (3).
On the monitoring of NAB proceedings in the Panamagate case, Justice Khosa observed that the court has already expressed reservations regarding the conduct of the top graft-buster. “How we can rely completely on [NAB] when it has already been dragging the issue,” adding that “every judge in his note has written against NAB.”
Justice Saeed then told Shahid Hamid, counsel for Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, that he was witness to the institutional failure of NAB in open court, and when an institution is allowed to fail, the state and judiciary fail.
Likewise, Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan told the Sharif family’s lawyer that none of the SC’s observations will be binding on the trial court, adding that their observations are tentative in nature. “We never said that JIT’s report is conclusive and final.”
He also said that Nawaz Sharif did not submit any documentary evidence in the apex court to substantiate his spoken claim of not getting a salary from his son’s UAE-based company Capital FZE, adding that Sharif’s initial salary at the company was significantly higher before being scaled down.
“When it is mentioned in the agreement that Nawaz Sharif will be entitled to a salary, how can we determine through an oral submission that he had no intention to withdraw it,” Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan asked Khawaja Haris, the counsel for the deposed PM. “There should be a document in black and white under Article 103 of Qanoon-i-Shahadat, 1984 that he had no intention to withdraw the salary,” Justice Khan added.
Referring to a document attached in Volume IX of the investigation report compiled by a six-member joint investigation team (JIT), Justice Ijazul Ahsan said, “An account was opened by the company to disburse his remuneration and in August 2013 the salary was transferred [into the account].”
However, Justice Saeed observed that under Article 184 (3) of the Constitution, the top court only decides cases on the basis of admitted facts and would not go beyond those.
In his arguments, Haris contended that Sharif did not open the account with the intention of getting a salary. “The SC cannot disqualify a member of National Assembly under Article 62 (1) (f) on the basis of mere omission,” he maintained, adding that it was the first case wherein the apex court disqualified any parliamentarian. Khawaja also stated that the court cannot direct NAB to file references against particular individuals.
When the counsel objected to the directions for NAB to file graft references against the Sharifs, Justice Khan remarked that the apex court never said that the JIT report was conclusive or that the Sharifs should be convicted on the basis of that report. “We don’t accept that the JIT report is final. The trial court shall be free to draw its own inference on the basis of evidence examined by it,” he observed, reiterating that the SC exercised restraint and tried not to write anything which could influence the case.
Justice Saeed said that come what may, they will not allow anyone to prejudice the trial of the Sharif family. He also said that NAB references on assets beyond known means are always person-specific.
He also observed that a ‘vicious campaign’ is being run by the ruling family targeting the country’s superior judiciary. “Your client and Khawaja Haris’s client (Nawaz Sharif) are leading a vicious campaign against the court. What goes around comes around,” Justice Saeed told Hamid after the latter argued that his client – Dar – is on the receiving end of a vicious smear campaign in the media.
Proceedings are likely to conclude today (Friday), and the SC may announce the order the same day.
However, legal experts were surprised that Haris did not raise arguments on whether or not disqualification under Article 62 (1) (f) is lifelong.
It was learnt that the legal team believes that that question cannot be discussed in the review jurisdiction. The team also thinks that this is not the appropriate bench to agitate this point before.