ISLAMABAD: Supreme Court judge Justice Qazi Faez Isa’s attorney has told the apex court that the judge’s observations in the Faizabad sit-in judgment – ‘an inconvenient truth’ – prompted the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) led federal government to file a presidential reference against him.
A 10-judge full court, led by Justice Umar Ata Bandial, on Monday resumed hearing of a set of petitions challenging the presidential reference filed against Justice Isa in May this year over non-disclosure of his family members’ assets in his wealth statement.
Muneer A Malik – Justice Isa’s counsel – told the bench that a ‘particular mindset’ is targeting the SC judge through ‘coordinated efforts’ after the Faizabad sit-in verdict.
He recalled that the apex court’s February 6 judgment had questioned role of security agencies in mediating a deal between the then federal government and the protestors of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) in November 2017.
He said eight review petitions were filed against the order by various political parties and organisations including the PTI, Muttahida Qaumi Movement, Election Commission of Pakistan, Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority, Intelligence Bureau and Defence Ministry (Inter-Service Intelligence).
“The review petitions were part of a coordinated exercise, as all were saying that observations in SC judgment demoralised the armed forces,” he said.
Malik said the content of review petitions filed by the PTI and the MQM was the same. However, the ruling party re-filed its review petition when the SC registrar office raised objection to its language. He said both the parties accused Isa of ‘misconduct’ for giving observations against security establishment.
When the bench questioned whether a reference can be filed against a judge on the basis of his judicial order, the counsel said the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) may take notice of an alleged misconduct.
“[However,] the main purpose of highlighting misconduct issue was to damage reputation of the SC judge,” he said. A member of the bench noted that though harsh language was used in the review petition but the court could not read minds of people.
Another judge said: “Perhaps Mr Malik wants to explain that particular mindset.” Malik said despite passage of seven months review petitions against the SC judgment are still pending. To a query, the counsel said the review petitions were filed on March 7 and in April
‘Later, a complaint by Wahid Dogar was moved in the Asset Recovery Unit, alleging non-disclosure of foreign assets in the wealth statement of Justice Isa,” he added.
Earlier, the counsel said the judge has fullest confidence on all members of the bench. He said the judge did not allege two members of bench of selfishness but raised objection to them on basis of principles.
Submitting his formulation, he said firstly he will explain background of the reference against the SC judge and how contents of the reference were leaked to the media. In the contexts of these facts and material, Malik said, he would explain Articles 211 and 248.
He said the case pertains to accountability of a judge and the petitioner judge is also not above the law. However, there are “visible and invisible pressures” on a judge to “change their views”.
Malik said there is no allegation on the petitioner judge that he is corrupt. He is not beneficial or ostensible owner of UK properties. Even there was nothing mentioned in presidential reference that these flats were benami.
He said the matter was raised by the federal government in ia rejoinder submitted by the Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) in the SJC. The first property was purchased in 2004 and two other were acquired in 2013 by the petitioner judge’s family.
In 2009, when he was elevated as the Balochistan High Court chief justice, his declared annual income was Rs3.6 million. Earlier before his elevation to bench, he was working in a legal firm which was the highest taxpayer firm.
“I am sure that all state agencies fully verified his financial affairs/tax affairs during time of his elevation in the Supreme Court in 2014,” said Malik. Malik said he would explain legality of the reference and argue as to why it should be quashed. He said he would also explain as to who is complainant in the reference. He will continue his arguments tomorrow (Tuesday).
Unpleasant scene in courtroom
An unpleasant scene was witnessed in the courtroom when a lawyer, Ajmal Mahmood, came to the rostrum and started inquiring about status of a misconduct complaint filed by him against head of the full court –Justice Bandial – before the SJC.
He asked how Justice Bandial could be hearing a case when a complaint was pending against him, adding that where should he go, when no one was addressing his grievances. However, judges objected to the language used by lawyer against the SC judge.
They also asked him to go to a proper forum to get his desired information.
A judge even warned to issue contempt notice to him. However, the Supreme Court Bar Association President Amanullah Kanrani intervened and managed to persuade the lawyer to leave the rostrum.
Later, Justice Bandial told the court that the lawyer filed complaint of misconduct against him on July 5, 2017 and the complaint was dismissed by the SJC. However, Justice Bandial showed restraint and did not issue a contempt notice to the lawyer.
Superior bars representative believe that the SJC secretariat is responsible for this unpleasant scene, wherein a senior judge was being accused in the courtroom. They said if the council shared information to the lawyer about status of compliant then the unfortunate incident might not have happened.
If anyone files frivolous complaint in the SJC then there is an option to proceed against the complainant. Interestingly, one of petitioners has already questioned transparency of the SJC in this case.