ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) has asked the Lahore High Court (LHC) judge Farrukh Irfan Khan whose name appeared in the Panama Papers in April 2016, to submit money trail of the properties he owned abroad.
“He should explain he earned money through fair means and later purchased properties in foreign countries. Likewise, why he did not disclose these properties before tax authorities,” the SJC Chairman Mian Saqib Nisar – who is also chief justice of Pakistan (CJP) – asked Justice Khan’s counsel Hamid Khan.
The council also asked the LHC judge’s brother Hassan Irfan to submit a list of all reported cases contested by Justice Irfan as a lawyer. “Instead of producing several witnesses, you should just give us evidence to prove your honesty so we could declare that our judge is honest,” the CJP noted.
Justice Nisar also said he is trying to fulfil his commitment to the nation about the disposal of all complaints against judges before his retirement by end of this month.
During more than two-hour-long hearing in an open court, 12 witnesses – including former judges – were cross-examined by the defence and prosecution lawyers. It was a unique proceeding in which a judge is presenting a judge as his witness before judges.
The council wondered why the LHC judge was producing retired judges and lawyers as defence witnesses. Justice Gulzar Ahmad asked why the lawyers were becoming a party in this case. Whether the same lawyers will appear to argue their cases before the respondent judge, he further asked.
Hamid Khan assured the council that they would not appear before the respondent judge.
When defence counsel objected to the Additional Attorney General (AAG) Chaudhry Amir Rehman’s query from a lawyer Chaudhry Zulfiqar Ali as to which group he supported in the bar elections, the CJP said it is a relevant question to show that all the witnesses belong to the same group.
Appearing as a defence witness, the LHC former judge Asad Munir said he was unaware of the offshore business of Justice Khan before the emergence of Panama leaks. He faced tough queries by the council.
AAG Rehman during cross-examination asked whether the LHC judge is still associated with the offshore properties. He said the net worth of the LHC judge was Rs302 million in 2001 which increased to more than Rs1 billion in 2010.
He also asked a witness to explain how much money was earned by the LHC judge through the UAE business and how he transferred the money to England and the United States to purchase the properties.
Ahmad Irfan, the judge’s bother, said all four properties were given to him by the judge as a gift before his appointment was the LHC judge in 2010. The council asked him to share documentary evidence to establish that properties were given as a gift by his brother.
Irfan admitted that he did not disclose these properties in his wealth statement before tax authorities and after the appointment of the LHC judge in 2010, he could not go abroad to transfer the properties.
Hamid Khan requested the SJC to give more time to produce key witnesses who are abroad and could not get visas to record his statement.
Former CJP Iftikhar Chaudhry also submitted an affidavit to the SJC in defence of Justice Khan. The council, however, rejected the LHC judge’s plea to summon former CJP Chaudhry in the witness box to testify on his affidavit.
“We will not summon retired judges. You may yourself ask [the former CJP] to appear before the council [if you wish to],” Justice Nisar told Hamid Khan.
The council proposed Hamid Khan not to present the former CJP as a defence witness, adding that otherwise, the prosecution will ask probing questions from him. However, the legal team of the LHC judge claims that former CJP will appear before the SJC today (Wednesday) to testify on his affidavit.
In his affidavit, Justice (retd) Chaudhry says that during his term as the CJP, he did not receive any complaint nor adverse remarks or report from any member of public, bar, judge or the LHC chief justice that Justice Khan was short-tempered, or disrespected members of the bars or litigants or officials.
“He had disclosed to me about his practice in the UAE, factum of owning properties and was working in the boards of various charitable organisation prior to his elevation and on my request for him to join the judiciary, he began the process to disassociate himself from all such engagements,” he added.
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