Senior Judge of Supreme Court of Pakistan, Justice Umar Ata Bandial, has noted that the reference against Justice Qazi Faez Isa has the potential to hurt not only a judge but the entire judiciary. Pakistan’s top court is dealing with a reference filed by the government after the approval of the President against a sitting SC judge who is accused of ‘hiding’ some properties owned by his family in London.
The judge and his legal counsel have repeatedly maintained that ‘it was not required as per tax laws to declare or mention the properties owned by the family members not dependent on Justice Isa’.
— Pakistan News (@pakistaninews) October 9, 2019
Senior lawyer Munir A. Malick who is representing Justice Qazi Faez Isa argued before the court that the reference was filed to harass a Supreme Court judge who recently penned down some strong judgments. He, therefore, requested the court to look into the ‘intentions’ behind filing of the reference. The bench made it clear that it wanted to ‘wrap up’ the case as soon as possible since one of the judges will not be available after two weeks.
While responding to arguments and comments by Justice Isa’s legal counsel, Justice Bandial noted “we know that he (Justice Isa) is not a person who steals money from people, but the other side (government) has accused him of dishonestly acquiring three properties during his tenure as the chief justice of the Balochistan High Court (BHC).”
References against Justice Isa
The President has 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.
Justice Isa was said to have faced ‘consequences’ after he delivered a strong-worded verdict in the Faizabad sit-in case.
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 learned that the SC judge has been 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.
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
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 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.”
Finally, the judgment states that Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), 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.