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Thursday, July 18, 2024

SC rejects Justice Qazi Faez Isa reference after 41 hearings

The Supreme Court on Friday rejected the presidential reference against Justice Qazi Faez Isa in a short verdict announced by Justice Umar Ata Bandial here in Islamabad.

Justice Umar Ata Bandial was leading the 10-judge full court bench hearing the case.

The Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) had initiated the proceedings against Justice Isa on allegations that he purchased three properties in London in the name of his wife and children between 2011 and 2015 — but did not allegedly disclose them in wealth returns declared in Pakistan.

The case was wrapped up after Justice Isa’s spouse provided the money trail pertaining to her foreign properties and the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) provided its input on the matter.

Justice Isa challenged the reference in the apex court where a 10-member larger bench of the apex court, headed by Justice Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Maqbool Baqar, Justice Manzoor Ahmad Malik, Justice Faisal Arab, Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel, Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Yahya Afridi and Justice Qazi Muhammad Amin Ahmed took up the case.

During the hearing, Justice Umar Ata Bandial said, ” We are answerable to Allah Almighty for all our deeds. We are bound to follow constitution and law, he remarked.”

Earlier in the day, Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) submitted tax record of Justice Qazi Faez Isa’s wife in a sealed envelope in SC.

Justice Qazi’s lawyer Munir Malik also presented the sealed documents in the apex court, saying that don’t know what government wants.

He told that Justice Qazi has never associated his wife’s property with him. It seems that government has mistakenly come to SC instead of going to FBR for this case, he went on to say.

Here is the money trail: Justice Isa’s wife

Justice Qazi Faez Isa’s wife Zarina Carrera Khoso on Thursday showed the money trail of her three properties in the United Kingdom to a full bench of the Supreme Court (SC) via video link in an assets concealment and alleged misconduct case against her husband.

Justice Isa had told the apex court on Wednesday that his wife wanted to appear before the SC bench to explain the sources of her UK properties.

Subsequently, following the top court’s approval she testified that all the money was transferred from Pakistan to UK through her two foreign accounts.

Read More: SCBA stands by Justice Faez Isa, maintains ‘the reference was illegal’

“Properties in Karachi were sold out and two bank accounts — one in British pounds and the other in US dollars — were opened in a private bank to transfer the money.

“From 2003-2013, a total of £700,000 was transferred through these two foreign accounts in the Standard Chartered Bank’s Karachi branch,” she added.

Khoso clarified that she was a Spanish citizen and that she had used her passport to purchase the properties in London. She added that when her husband was a lawyer, she would get a five-year visa.

However, the Pakistani authorities had issued a one-year visa after 2018 only to create hurdles.

Justice Isa maintained that his wife and children had never concealed any assets abroad using offshore companies, and the properties they own were bought in their own names.

Read More: FBR humiliated my wife, Justice Faez Isa tells SC

Decide the case on merit: Justice Isa

In a rare appearance before the bench, Justice Isa had opposed the court’s suggestion the other day to the federal government to refer the matter of his family members’ foreign assets to the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), providing an opportunity to the spouse of the judge to explain about the sources for purchasing the London properties.

Justice Isa, while opposing the proposal of the apex court, had prayed for deciding the case on merit.

“Justice Isa is the ‘ostensible owner’ of three properties in the UK”

Back in October 2019, the government 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 response was submitted by then-Attorney General of Pakistan Anwar Mansoor Khan.

“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.

Judge was bound to declare his wife’s assets: Dr. Farogh Naseem

Farogh Naseem repeatedly said that the SC judge was bound to declare his spouse’s assets, implying that independence or co-dependence doesn’t matter in the case. The government’s counsel stated that this case was not primarily related to section 116 of the tax law. Dr Farogh Naseem said that he respected the judges and their integrity, but, he maintained, the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) was the proper forum to ask a judge about the property of his spouse

Naseem told the SC bench that the rule of proximity was a fundamental one and that it was misconduct if a judge failed to give details of the assets of his wife, his dependent or not.

The counsel gave this argument after the bench asked which law was violated by Justice Isa that the government had to file a misconduct reference against him.

Read More: Explainer: Was Justice Faez Isa bound to declare his wife’s assets?

However, Justice Sajjad Ali Shah told him that he referred to the Islamic law out of context. He also asked whether the same Islamic principles will be applicable to non-Muslim judges.

Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah wondered if the government’s counsel is asking if women have any legal rights in Pakistan. Justice Maqbool Baqar said that Naseem was trying to create a brand new case. “You are quoting the holy Quran out of the context,” judges told Dr. Naseem.