Justice Isa files plea for formation of full court bench

Application raises objections over manner in which SJC proceedings were undertaken


Hasnaat Malik September 15, 2019
Justice Qazi Faez Isa. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: Justice Qazi Faez Isa has filed a fresh application requesting the Supreme Court to form a full court bench comprising all eligible judges to hear his petition against the presidential reference filed over non-disclosure of assets in his wealth statement.

It is learnt that the fresh application stated that a full court bench should be convened in this case particularly given the objections over the manner in which the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) proceedings were undertaken.

Earlier, Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Asif Saeed Khosa constituted a seven-judge Supreme Court bench to hear Justice Isa's petition against the presidential reference.

The bench, led by Justice Umar Ata Bandial, will hear the case tomorrow (Tuesday) September 17.

Other members of the bench are Justice Maqbool Baqar, Justice Manzoor Ahmad Malik, Justice Sardar Tariq Masood, Justice Faisal Arab, Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel.

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The SC's three senior-most judges, including the CJP, were part of the SJC, which was hearing the presidential reference against Justice Isa.

Four members of the bench belonged to Punjab, two to Sindh while one judge to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P).

It is learnt that the other petitioners, who moved the court against the reference, might seek recusal of two judges who would be the beneficiaries of Justice Isa's removal.

One of them would become the CJP for six months while the other judge's tenure as the top judge would be extended.

"We will raise objection over the inclusion of these two judges in the larger bench," said a senior bar representative on condition of anonymity.

However, the bars expressed satisfaction over Justice Bandial, the head of the bench. Interestingly, Justice Isa had yet to submit wakalatnama of any counsel to plead his case.

However, it is learnt that renowned lawyer Muneer A Malik would appear on his behalf. It is expected that Justice Isa's counsel would argue over the fresh application for formation of a full court bench. Currently, 16 judges were working in SC, wherein three were SJC members.

Under the law, there was no restriction on a petitioner judge to argue his case.

Presidential references: CJP forms seven-judge bench to hear Justice Isa petition

Earlier, the CJP had not entertained Justice Isa's plea for constitution of a full court bench to hear his case.

Justice Isa had requested that the case be heard by a full court bench comprising all eligible judges of this court since the matter pertained to reference against a Supreme Court judge and as per precedent of this court in the case of CJP Iftikhar Chaudhry vs President of Pakistan, PLD 2010 Supreme Court.

Justice Isa had said matters narrated in accompanying civil miscellaneous application dated August 26 – "which may for the sake of brevity be read as a part hereof" – demonstrates necessity for hearing by such full court bench.

"The petition also raises a number of important constitutional questions, including that of the independence of judiciary, formation of an independent opinion by the president, obtaining federal cabinet's approval and other vital issues of surveillance, and the manner and method of collecting evidence against a judge of the Supreme Court and his family," he said in his application.

‘Complaint’ against Justice Isa a result of surveillance: SHCBA

Different superior bars, including the Supreme Court Bar Association and the Pakistan Bar Council, had also challenged the reference filed against Justice Isa, contending that it was motivated by the judge's verdict in the Faizabad sit-in case. So far, seven petitions had been entertained against the reference.

Since filing of the presidential reference against Justice Isa in May this year, he was on leave. Now Justice Isa had once again joined his duty and was heading a bench.

Last month, Justice Isa in a petition had accused the country's top judge Asif Saeed Khosa of being biased against him. Likewise, he requested the SC to declare that the SJC chairman and members were no longer competent to hear the presidential reference against him.

"The language used by the chief justice [of Pakistan] in the [Supreme Judicial] Council's order sadly demonstrates his lordship's bias and prejudice towards him [Justice Isa]," the plea stated.

Justice Isa also claimed that intelligence agencies were deployed to monitor his family in which public funds were also misused.

Moreover, he alleged that his wife's personal data and records were also probed. Legal experts believed that the main question before the SC would be allowing state agencies to collect information of judges and their family without approval of a competent authority.

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