Justice Isa submits reply to presidential reference

Urges SJC to display his response on the Supreme Court’s website

Hasnaat Malik July 03, 2019
Justice Qazi Faez Isa. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: The apex court judge Qazi Faez Isa has submitted his reply in the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) with regard to the presidential reference against his alleged non-disclosure of three foreign properties, owned by his wife.

Sources revealed to The Express Tribune that Justice Isa, who submitted his reply on June 28, has urged the SJC that his reply be made public on the Supreme Court’s website like others public documents.

However, there is no official confirmation in this regard. It is also unclear whether Justice Isa raised question of malafide in his reply. Justice Isa in his second letter to president of Pakistan had claimed that his children and spouse, who own three properties in the United Kingdom, are not his dependents.

Regarding the allegation about violating Section 116 (1)(b) of the Income Tax Ordinance 2001, Justice Isa said he had not received any notice from the tax authority.

Govt can’t remove Justice Isa: CJP

“Secondly, my children are not minors nor have they been so for quite a while. Thirdly, neither my spouse nor my children are my dependents. Fourthly, Section 116 (1) (b) of the Income Tax Ordinance 2001 is not penal provision,” says the letter written by Justice Isa.

The judge told the president that he had been maliciously maligned by half-truths by the members of the government, which was completely distressing for his family and himself.

“The government sleuths surely knew that after completing their education, both my children legally worked in London. The details of properties disseminated by the members of the government were those in which they lived with their spouses.

“The properties are owned by those in whose names they stand. No attempt was made to conceal their ownership, neither were they held under a trust nor a special purpose or offshore company,” says the five-page letter.

Quoting the law, the top court judge maintains that he was not required to disclose properties owned by his spouse and children, adding that the “premier thinks otherwise”.

Source said the Sindh High Court judge K K Agha, who is also facing a similar presidential reference, has also submitted a reply in the SJC. The government alleged that although the judge had declared his foreign properties in 2018, he did not disclose their ‘value’.

With its complaint, the government attached a report by the Federal Board of Revenue which said Justice Agha jointly purchased a property, ‘No 17 Calvert Close Belvedere Kent’, on Nov 24, 2005 but did not declare it in his wealth statement until 2018. Even then, the property was declared at zero value.

The report further said the SHC judge had not filed his tax declarations between 2005 and 2014. He filed his declarations for the tax years 2015, 2016 and 2017, but did not disclose his property in Kent. However, a senior lawyer believes that these are inherited properties.

SJC’s brief meeting

The SJC held a second hearing of the references against both the judges on Tuesday. During the brief in-camera meeting, neither the Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) nor the accused judges appeared before the SJC. A senior lawyer, who is strong supporter of Justice Isa, claims that good news is coming soon and facts will support the SC judge.  The AGP office says copy of judges’ replies has yet to receive.

Five-member SJC bench comprises Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Asif Saeed Khosa, Justice Gulzar Ahmed, Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, Sindh High Court (SHC) Chief Justice Ahmed Ali M Shaikh and Peshawar High Court (PHC) Chief Justice Waqar Ahmed Seth.

‘Doubts over SJC’

The Lawyers Action Committee of Pakistan expressed doubts over the SJC proceedings with regard to the presidential references against Justice Isa and Justice Agha in a meeting, chaired by the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) Vice Chairman Amjad Shah, on Tuesday.

Lawyers’ groups throw weight behind Justice Isa

In the meeting, which continued for three hours, more than 35 representatives of superior bars took part.  However, the Lahore High Court Bar Association president and secretary were absent from the moot, showing the government’s success in dividing lawyers in the province of Punjab.

However there is strong support of Justice Isa in all three small provinces.  The protest arrangements at SC premises have been made by PBC Vice Chairman Syed Amjad Shah and Syed Qulb-i-Hassan.

The action committee in its statement unanimously resolved that presidential references are based on mala fide and against the SJC rules, adding that lawyers believe it as attack on judiciary.

It said lawyers are going to start a movement for prosperity and sovereignty of the state. Lawyers’ conventions will be held for this purpose. The first such convention will be held in Peshawar on July 13 in which all lawyers’ representatives will participate. Courts will be completely boycotted on that day.

The committee also took strong exception to the Judicial Commission of Pakistan’s Monday decision to approve five names nominated by the Peshawar High Court (PHC) chief justice to be appointed as the PHC’s additional judges. The lawyers believe that Article 175-A was used to appoint weak judges.

The committee alleged that the superior judiciary favoured the PHC chief justice. That decision has made the conduct of SJC more suspicious, said the statement.

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