Justice Faez Isa case

SJC may again come into play in case a link is established between Justice Isa & foreign properties owned by his wife

Editorial June 21, 2020

In a landmark judgment upholding the prime objective of the rule of law and supremacy of the Constitution, and highlighting complete judicial freedom in the country, the Supreme Court of Pakistan has set aside a presidential reference against Justice Qazi Faez Isa, declaring it ‘invalid’.

The, reference, sent to the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) by the President of Pakistan in May 2019, accused Justice Isa of misconduct for not declaring the foreign properties of his wife and children, and recommended action against him under Article 209 of the Constitution. However, Justice Isa, who is in line to become the Chief Justice of Pakistan in September 2023, took it to the Supreme Court alleging mala fide on the part of the government. The petitioner judge also requested that the full court address the matter as it concerns the independence of judiciary.

A 10-member bench of the top court, headed by Justice Umar Ata Bandial, dismissed the reference by a unanimous verdict. Simultaneously, in what shows that even superior judiciary is also open to financial accountability like ordinary citizens, seven of the 10 judges ordered tax authorities to seek explanations from the judge’s wife and children on the nature and source of funding for three properties in their names in the United Kingdom, conclude the proceedings within 60 days, and submit a report to the SC registrar.

Even though an 11-page short order does not provide the reasons for the dismissal of the presidential reference, the judgment available so far has come up as a win-win situation for all — including the petitioner judge who came out of the case clean-handed; the government whose concerns regarding any undeclared foreign assets have been addressed by the court by ordering a tax probe; and the top court itself that ensured that the rule of law and constitutionalism prevailed and judicial independence is safeguarded.

However, in line with the 7-3 verdict, the SJC may again come into play in case a link is established between Justice Isa and the foreign properties owned by his wife — something that makes some of the experts believe that the case will not be over till it’s over.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 21st, 2020.

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