ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court was informed on Thursday that Justice Qazi Faez Isa was the ‘ostensible owner’ of three foreign properties as his family members purchased the assets at a time when they had no independent source of income.
The assertion was made in the government’s response – submitted by Attorney General of Pakistan Anwar Mansoor Khan – on a set of petitions challenging the presidential references against Justice Isa.
“The petitioner’s spouse and children own expensive properties in the United Kingdom which were purchased in the year 2004 and 2013 at a time when they had no independent source of income of their own,” reads the reply.
“The inescapable conclusion which follows is that the properties are benami and that the petitioner is the ostensible owner,” it continues.
The response states that the presidential reference filed in the Supreme Judicial Council only sought an inquiry to ascertain whether Justice Isa’s conduct in “in owning the properties, though ostensibly, is free from financial impropriety”.
“The simple and straightforward answer to this query would have been to disclose the source of funds employed to purchase the properties, the mode and manner of acquisition of foreign exchange and its transfer to UK,” it continues.
The government’s response states that instead of providing answers, Justice Isa “took a very evasive stand and started vilifying and castigating the complainant”.
“The complainant may not be a symbol of propriety but as a judge, the petitioner [Justice Isa] should have a displayed such a character,” added the response.
The government maintained that the information provided by the complainant was admitted by the petitioner as well “therefore, instead of assassinating the character of the complainant”, Justice Isa should come forward with the information.
Furthermore, the government stressed that the mere filing of a reference by President Arif Alvi cannot be visualised as a threat to the independence of the judiciary. “There is no shred of evidence to establish that any of the Constitutional functionary has acted with slightest of malafide.”
According to the government, the president deliberately omitted the names of Justice Isa’s spouse and children to “keep them out of the controversy”.
Citing Article 248 of the Constitution, the government argued that the president and prime minister of the country have immunity and are not answerable to any court, including the SC, for acts done in exercise of powers and performance of functions of their respective offices.
The reply also stressed that Article 48(4) of the Constitution states that advice tendered to the president by the premier shall not be inquired into by any court.
Finally, the government has denied “all allegations, insinuations, asperations” put forth by Justice Isa and the country’s bar associations and councils alleging the presidential references were filed out of malafide intent and for ulterior motives.
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.