Judge hearing Sharif family cases may get extension

IHC writes law ministry to appoint Justice Bashir for three years

Hasnaat Mailk February 28, 2018

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has recommended reappointment of an accountability court judge who conducted proceedings in the Panamagate case against the Sharif family.

A senior official in the law ministry has confirmed to The Express Tribune that in response to the ministry’s request, the IHC has sent a letter wherein it is stated that the IHC chief justice has nominated Muhammad Bashir for the appointment as judge of Accountability Court-I Islamabad in terms of the National Accountability Ordinance 1999, which says “the judge will be appointed for three years term”.

The tenure of same judge is going to end on March 13.

Giving reason regarding his reappointment, the letter says that the high court is facing paucity of judicial officers, particularly of the cadre of the District & Session Judges (D&SJ) (BPS-21).

It is further stated that presently, out of 15 sanctioned posts of the D&SJ in the Islamabad Judicial Service, 13 are working (out of which, services of six D&SJs acquired from provincial high courts on deputation).

The Supreme Court in suo motu case also directed to fill up all vacant posts of special court/tribunals.

“In the above backdrop, the chief justice of this court has been pleased to nominate Mr. Bashir (D&SJ) for appointment as judge accountability court 1 Islamabad in terms of National Accountability Ordinance.”

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The official in the ministry revealed that if the federal government approves the IHC’s recommendation, then that would be the third extension of Bashir as accountability court’s judge.

Meanwhile, it is learnt that the IHC has sent the recommendation for the reappointment of the judge without consulting senior puisne judge, Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui.

Legal experts are divided whether consultation of senior puisne judge, regarding the appointments is binding or not.

“The law ministry will forward the nomination of the judge to the competent authority with its legal opinion,” says an official in the ministry.

“The reappointment of Bashir will be significant as he is adjudicating a number of corruption cases against three former prime ministers -- Nawaz Sharif, Raja Pervez Ashraf and Yousaf Raza Gilani.

On Wednesday, the judge had rejected the Sharif family’s plea for exemption from appearance in the court.

The family had cited illness of Kulsoom Nawaz, the ousted premier’s wife, and requested to exempt them from appearing before the court. However, as per the NAB court’s order, illness of one’s wife is not reason enough to skip hearing.

The Sharif family is under investigation over three references filed in the Flagship Investments, Al Azizia and Hill Metal Establishment cases.

The Supreme Court had disqualified Nawaz Sharif in a landmark judgment in the Panama Papers case in July last year.

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The court had also ordered the accountability court to decide the references within six months, which will be ended next month.

However, it would not be possible for the judge to conclude the proceedings of the references related to the Panamagate by next month. The accountability court may move the Supreme Court, seeking time extension in this case.

SC judge Justice Ijazul Ahsan is supervising the proceedings of the Panamagate case in view of July 28, 2017 judgment.