Can illegally collected material be used against a judge?

The legal counsel for Justice Qazi Faez Isa raised a question before the SC: can the material collected through illegal means be used in court against a judge? The court had its reservations against the ways material was collected against Justice Qazi.

Judge

All the oceans of the world cannot wipe off the stain on a superior court judge if he was to face the indignity of going through proceedings before the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) based on material collected illegally by the executive, argued a senior counsel on Monday while defending Justice Qazi Faez Isa in the reference sent by President Arif Alvi. Justice Isa’s legal counsel maintained that the government was unlawfully questioning the integrity of a judge of a superior court.

He maintained that the leniency by the court in any way shall convey a very wrong message. “This is a case of the first impression and any leniency on part of the apex court will amount to giving the executive a license to intimidate the superior judiciary,” warned senior counsel Muneer A. Malik.

The counsel was trying to persuade the court to quash the reference by arguing that the executive cannot be allowed to collect material against other branches of the state in an “illegal and unauthorized manner”.

Read more: Is PTI Govt harassing Justice Qazi Faez Isa for his Strong Judgments?

“Will the slur be removed if we quash the reference,” observed Justice Umar Ata Bandial, who heads a 10-judge full court of the Supreme Court hearing a set of challenges to the filing of the presidential reference against Justice Isa.

Muneer Malik concluded his arguments on Monday while Hamid Khan, who represents the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), is expected to commence his arguments on Tuesday [today].

Where had the Asset Recovery Unit (ARU) received funds from?

The Supreme Court inquired about where had the Asset Recovery Unit (ARU) received funds from for initiating an investigation against Justice Qazi Faez Isa. The court maintained that there can be no investigation through illegal means to obtain personal information.

Legal experts believe that the court may ask the federal government to explain its position on the matter. “This is not an ordinary matter. The court must look into it,” a lawyer said. It is argued that the SC is likely to ascertain the facts whether the reference has been filed on mala-fide intentions or not.

According to the details, the question was raised by Justice Maqbool Baqar as a 10-judge full-court, led by Justice Umar Ata Bandial, resumed hearing of the case pertaining to the presidential reference against Justice Isa. Muneer A Malik, Justice Isa’s counsel, raised questions about the legal status of the ARU.

Read more: Justice Faez Isa case: Where did Asset Recovery Unit (ARU) received funds from? SC

Mr. Malik said that Special Assistant to the PM on Accountability Shahzad Akbar had conducted an investigation against the judge and his family without any legal authority to do so and accessed classified information about their tax details. “The reference was prepared after illegally collecting material against him. It has been conceded in the reference that ARU had received a complaint against the judge and the chairman of the unit took it to the law minister rather than the prime minister or the cabinet,” he added.

Justice Qazi Faez Isa, ‘ostensible owner’ of properties in the UK

It is important to recall that the government has informed the SC that Justice Qazi Faez Isa was the ‘ostensible owner’ of three properties in the United Kingdom as his family members purchased the assets at a time when they had no independent source of income. The government in its response lamented over the behavior of Justice Isa who instead of addressing the questions raised in the reference started vilifying the complainant.

The government’s response states that instead of providing answers, Justice Isa “took a very evasive stand and started vilifying and castigating the complainant”.

Justice Isa’s Strong Judgment

Justice Isa is said to be facing ‘consequences’ after he delivered a strong-worded verdict in the Faizabad sit-in case. The judgment authored by Justice Isa drew some broad and important conclusions. For example, the court has directed the federal and provincial governments to monitor and prosecute those advocating hate, extremism, and terrorism. It also ordered the government ─ through the defense ministry and respective chiefs of the armed forces ─ to initiate action against armed forces’ personnel found to have violated their oath.

The judgment further states that any person who issues an edict or fatwa that “harms another or puts another in harm’s way must be criminally prosecuted under the Pakistan Penal Code, the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997, and/or the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016.”

Read more: Presidential Reference: Why did SJC suspend proceedings against Justice Faez Isa?

Finally, the judgment states that Inter-Services Intelligence, the Intelligence Bureau, Military Intelligence and the Inter-Services Public Relations “must not exceed their respective mandates”. It also reinforced the idea of freedom of speech which, the court said, is also subject to the law.

Many in Pakistan believe that he is now being targeted for his judgment which also made PTI a part of it and slammed it for using the religious card to target the then-government of PML-N. The top court has to determine whether such speculation holds some ground or not. If yes, the apex court is expected to provide more constitutional security to its judges so that they may pronounce more firm and strong judgments.

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