ISLAMABAD: Judge Umar Ata Bandial – head of the Supreme Court ten-judge bench hearing Justice Qazi Faez Isa’s petition against a presidential reference – has said no institution is perfect and there is a need for improvement everywhere.
The apex court judge made this observation on Tuesday in a reference to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s speech delivered on Monday in which he requested the country’s top judge and his successor to revive public trust in the country’s judicial system and to ensure uniform application of law.
During the hearing of the case, Justice Isa’s counsel Babar Sattar referred to PM Imran’s speech made in the backdrop of the Lahore High Court’s (LHC) order to allow the ailing former premier Nawaz Sharif fly abroad without submitting Rs7 billion indemnity bonds as demanded by the Imran government.
Justice Bandial asked the attorney to avoid referring to political statement. However, he said the PM’s statement will be examined in legal context, adding that “providing justice is a pious duty and we are ashamed by the revelations about a session court judge (Arshad Malik)”.
However, Babar said he was not referring to a political statement but wanted to convey that generally, one party rejoices while the other is irked by a court decision. “And it seems that the PM is unhappy with the court’s [LHC’s] decision,” he added.
Talking with reference to Justice Isa’s case, the SC judge noted that the presidential reference had not accused the judge of corruption but it is a presumption that the money was given by petitioner judge [Justice Isa] to purchase these foreign properties owned by his family.
Justice Bandial asked why the SC judge is avoiding facing the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC), adding that the council is not a rubberstamp. He also defended conduct of the SJC members, adding that “they are applying their minds honestly”. Justice Faisal Arab also asked whether it was not necessary to find out the source of fund with which these properties were purchased.
Concluding his argument, Sattar said on instruction of his client, he states that Justice Isa is ready to face accountability like a common citizen and is not interested to get any privilege on account of holding the post of a judge. “However, due process is his fundamental right under Article 10-A of the Constitution and tax authorities should probe the matter,” he added.
The counsel said Justice Isa did not give any gift to his spouse, adding that even if he had given her a gift it would have become her asset. If the SC judge and his family wanted to hide these properties then they could form offshore companies, he added,
When the counsel said Justice Isa is not legally bound to disclose these properties, a member of the bench noted that it was mandatory for her spouse to disclose them.
The counsel responded that the tax authorities may award fine, if they were not satisfied with her response. A judge cannot be held accountable for his family members’ acts.
However, Justice Yahya Afridi noted that if family members are enjoying perks and privileges’ granted to the judge then they will be held accountable. Justice Bandial referred to Arsalan case verdict wherein Justice Khilji Arif Hussain had held that judges’ family members should be very careful.
Another judge noted that if properties have any connection with the judge then question about dependence will not arise. Justice Munib Akhtar asked as whether violation of judges’ code of conduct will be considered misconduct. The hearing of case is adjourned till next Wednesday