Supreme Court judge Umar Ata Bandial has asked the federal government’s counsel to answer the questions that he had earlier posed to the petitioner judge, Justice Qazi Faez Isa, regarding his alleged nexus with family member’s foreign properties.
As head of a 10-judge bench hearing a slew of petitions against the SC’s June 19, 2020 order, Justice Bandial on Tuesday asked Justice Isa to explain if he had any link with his wife Sarina Isa’s bank accounts and transfer of money through them after his appointment as the Balochistan High Court chief justice.
In response to his queries, Justice Isa on Wednesday submitted a written statement in which he refused to answer these queries.
Justice Isa said since Sarina and he had given no credence to Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) official Zulfiqar Ahmad's order and the report of the FBR chairman with regard to his family’s properties, Justice Bandial should not have raised these questions.
In its split order, the SC on June 19, 2020 quashed a presidential reference that sought Justice Isa’s removal over his failure to disclose his family members’ foreign properties in his wealth statement.
However, seven of the judges had referred the matter to the FBR for an inquiry. The FBR has already submitted its report to the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC), the constitutional forum that can hold superior court judges accountable.
In his reply Justice Isa had noted that if he submits to the queries and answers them, “he will effectively be endorsing a patent illegality and undermine his own case that nothing can be added to the reference.
“It is further submitted that it is not appropriate to introduce the [FBR] report at the stage of hearing of the said review applications,” the petitioner judge noted.
At the end of the hearing on Friday, Justice Bandial told Additional Attorney General Amir Rehman that as Justice Isa has not responded to the queries, he should answer them on the basis of documents submitted by petitioners.
Justice Bandial made it clear that the court while deciding the review petitions will consider both legal and factual aspects. He again asked the AAG to place FBR official Zulfiqar Ahmad’s order in Sarina case.
“Though the court could not examine the FBR report submitted to the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC), he [AAG] may place the relevant facts in this matter,” he noted.
Justice Bandial also noted that it is a unique and sensitive case as the last presidential reference challenged in the Supreme Court was that of former chief justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Chaudhry. “However, proceedings of the Justice Chaudhry case went smoothly,” he added.
Interestingly, unlike the Justice Isa case, the full-court while quashing the presidential reference against Justice Chaudhry did not refer the matter to any relevant authority for further probe.
Justice Munib Akhtar also asked if the SJC while taking suo motu notice could consider information mentioned in the FBR report in case the Supreme Court allowed the review petitions.
However, Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah said the presidential reference has already been quashed and certain directions were passed to the FBR for an inquiry. “What is the locus standi of the federal government and why is it necessary to hear the government in a review case,” he asked the AAG.
Supporting the June 19 order of the Supreme Court, the AAG stated that the apex court could pass any direction for complete justice under Article 187 of the Constitution. He said facts are admitted as ownership of the UK properties was not denied by the Isa family.
“The FBR report is a piece of information which could not be quashed or withdrawn. The matter is sub judice before the council [SJC], therefore, the present discussion is just academic nature.”
Rehman also said even if the review petition is allowed, the SJC may take notice on the basis of information contained in the FBR report. The hearing of the case was adjourned till Monday. The AAG is likely to complete his arguments on that day.