ISLAMABAD: The counsel for Justice Qazi Faez Isa on Tuesday said that Pakistan’s judiciary as a whole was on trial in the presidential references against the Supreme Court judge.
A 10-judge full court led by Justice Umar Ata Bandial resumed hearing on a set of petitions challenging the presidential reference filed against Justice Isa over alleged non-disclosure of assets in his wealth statement.
The other judges are Justice Maqbool Baqar, Justice Manzoor Ahmad Malik, Justice Faisal Arab, Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel, Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, Justice Muneeb Akhtar, Justice Yahya Afridi, and Justice Qazi Muhammad Amin Ahmad.
During the hearing, Justice Isa’s lawyer, Muneer A Malik, observed that a ‘proxy’ complainant was using Article 209 of the Constitution to persecute the top court judge because of certain hard-hitting judgments.
When the counsel questioned the apex court’s prerogative to decide the matter at the earliest despite a delay by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government in submitting a statement before the court, Justice Bandial said the SC cannot prolong the matter.
“Justice Isa is not a ‘gentleman’ who has stolen money from the people,” noted Justice Bandial. “However, there is still an allegation that he acquired three properties dishonestly during his tenure as chief justice of the Balochistan High Court. He also did not disclose them in the wealth statement.”
Justice Bandial said the allegation was a ‘stain’ on the judicial institution, hence, the matter could not be brushed under the rug. He asserted that the top court will maintain its decorum.
The apex court judge added that the recusal of two SC judges, Justice Sardar Tariq Masood and Justice Ijazul Ahsan, was a painful situation. He observed that the present case was different than the Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry case used as a precedent by Justice Isa’s counsel in the matter.
The full court bench adjourned the hearing till October 14.
The presidential references
In May, presidential reference was filed in the Supreme Judicial Council against Justice Isa alleging non-disclosure of assets in his wealth statement. In his reply, the top judge maintained that he was neither answerable for the assets of his wife nor adult offspring nor was he under obligation to disclose any information concerning them.
Challenging the allegation, Justice Isa said the presidential references are filed under “malice, ulterior motives and to achieve a collateral purpose and to humiliate, subjugate and browbeat the judiciary, destroy the judiciary’s independence and make the judiciary subservient to the executive by subverting the Constitution.”
In his constitutional plea, Justice Isa also sought a stay in the SJC proceedings against him till the matter was decided in the top court. The council, however, maintains that the proceedings are immune from a judicial review under Article 211 of the Constitution.
In another petition seeking a full-court, Justice Isa had underscored that the ‘possibility’ of the judge being swayed over a personal advantage is a ground for recusal under Article 4 of the Code of Conduct of Judges of the Supreme Court and the High Courts of Pakistan. Consequently, Justice Masood and Justice Ahsan recused themselves from the bench.