In the latest development, the government has informed the Supreme Court (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 assertion was made in the government’s response – submitted by Attorney General of Pakistan Anwar Mansoor Khan – on a set of petitions challenging the presidential references against Justice Isa.
PTI govt informs Supreme Court that Justice Qazi Faez Isa is the ‘ostensible owner’ of three foreign properties as his family members purchased the assets at a time when they had no independent source of income.https://t.co/v4hn8g8S5t
— The Express Tribune (@etribune) October 10, 2019
“The petitioner’s spouse and children own expensive properties in the UK which were purchased in the year 2004 and 2013 at a time when they had no independent source of income of their own. The inescapable conclusion which follows is that the properties are Benami and that the petitioner is the ostensible owner,” it said.
The response states that the presidential reference filed in the Supreme Judicial Council only sought an inquiry to ascertain whether Justice Isa’s conduct in “in owning the properties, though ostensibly, is free from financial impropriety”.
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 was said to have faced ‘consequences’ after he delivered a strong-worded verdict in the Faizabad sit-in case. The judgment authored by Justice Isa drew some important conclusions
For many political commentators, the case has become interesting since the government is looking only for the answers to the questions it has just raised. The government believes that the judge should respond and address the real questions instead of going after the complainant. This makes sense to many Pakistanis who believe in the rule of law.
References against Justice Isa
The President had sent a reference against Justice Isa of the SC for alleged misconduct. According to sources, Justice Isa did not mention the foreign assets of his wife in his official document.
According to legal experts, the said judge was not legally bound to mention the assets of his independent wife. Salman Akram Raja, Advocate SC, said.
Wealth statement required of a person mandates disclosure of assets held by a spouse only if these were obtained through funds provided by that person & are held as benami assets. Assets purchased by a spouse in her own right are to be disclosed only in her wealth statement.
— salman akram raja (@salmanAraja) May 30, 2019
Justice Isa has so far received two show-cause notices on separate charges. According to the report, the SJC in its fresh notice has asked Justice Isa to explain his conduct for writing letters to the president of Pakistan. It is learnt that the SC judge was given 14 days to submit his reply.
A Lahore-based lawyer Waheed Shahzad Butt had filed a complaint against Justice Isa for violating the code of conduct for members of the judiciary by “writing letters to the president of Pakistan and sharing it with the media”.
It is important to note that Justice Qazi Faez Isa wrote a letter to the President of Pakistan seeking clarity if the government has actually filed a reference against him over the allegations of misconduct. Justice Isa is known for his upright and strong legal position in many controversial cases. He is also famous for powerful and legally insightful dissenting notes.
Read more: Supreme Court issued notices to President and Prime Minister
According to the details, in the letter, Justice Isa has noted that “I have to come to learn that the government sources are stating that a reference has been filed against me under Article 209 of the Constitution. I will be obliged if you (the president) could let me know whether this is correct and if it is, then provides me with a copy of the alleged reference.”
According to the source, Justice Isa further wrote, “I am confident that you will agree that if a reference has been filed and I have been called upon to submit a reply, only then to the permission of the Supreme Judicial Council, the government may disclose the reference and my response thereto.”
Justice Qazi Faez Isa is real owner of three properties in UK, Attorney General tells SC https://t.co/QJz6ONCFPN pic.twitter.com/RAmd8KmRiF
— 92 News HD Plus (@92newschannel) October 10, 2019
Justice Isa further conveyed to the President that “selective leaks amount to character assassination” jeopardize his right to due process and fair trial, and undermines the institution of the judiciary.
Justice Isa’s Strong Judgment
Justice Isa was said to have faced ‘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: SJC clears Justice Isa over writing letters to president
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.