News Desk |
The Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) has issued a notice to Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) for June 14 in connection presidential references against Supreme Court judge Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Sindh High Court judge Justice K K Agha over non-disclosure of their spouses’ foreign properties in their wealth statements.
The SJC – a constitutional body tasked with scrutinizing the conduct of superior court judges – has issued a notice to AGP in order to obtain his legal assistance in deciding the maintainability of references. After AGP’s legal assistance, the legal experts said, the council may issue show-cause notices to the judges with directions to submit their reply within a specified time period.
The legal experts said, the council may issue show-cause notices to the judges with directions to submit their reply within a specified time period.
The SJC can initiate trial if the replies are not satisfactory. According to Rule 10(2) of SJC Procedure, Inquiry, 2005, “The council may require the AGP or any other counsel to appear and assist the council in relation to smooth and efficient conduct of its proceedings.”
The SJC is the only forum for initiating action against judges over misconduct. It consists of five top judges. Composition of the SJC will be very important in this matter.
Currently, Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, who is retiring in December, is the chairman of the council. Other members are: Justice Gulzar Ahmad, Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, Chief Justice Sindh High Court Justice Ahmed Ali M Shaikh and Chief Justice Peshawar High Court Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth.
Legal experts say the addition of Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed as SJC member will be significant as “he is going to retire in August”. Justice Gulzar is said to be the future chief justice of Pakistan.
The council may require the AGP or any other counsel to appear and assist the council in relation to smooth and efficient conduct of its proceedings.
Judges, others will be held accountable
On May 30, the Special Assistant to Prime Minister on information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan said that everyone, including politicians, media, judiciary or bureaucracy, who violates the code of conduct will be held accountable. “Accountability is equal for all,” she said. Interestingly, it resonates with the earlier slogan calling for “across the board accountability”.
Dr Firdous said the SJC will hear a reference filed by the government against two judges of the superior courts on June 14. “Confidentiality is very important in the SJC’s code of conduct. The law minister will brief the media about the reference filed by the government,” she said.
Legal experts say the addition of Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed as SJC member will be significant as “he is going to retire in August”.
While talking with reference to the opposition parties’ criticism, Dr Firdous said that those who were advising the government to respect the judiciary should remember the events that took place during their terms in government. In past, she said, Supreme Court was attacked, phone calls were made to judges and briefcases [bribes] were sent to judges.
She alleged that the leadership of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) were directly involved in hiding assets and money laundering through fake accounts.
Justice Isa writes letter to President Alvi
Separately, in a letter to the president, Justice Isa, who is in line to eventually become chief justice of Pakistan, wrote a letter to President Arif Alvi asking if the news of filing reference was correct and, if it is, then he should be provided a copy of the reference. “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.
Dr Firdous said the SJC will hear a reference filed by the government against two judges of the superior courts on June 14.
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.” 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.”
He added that “selective leaks amount to character assassination”, jeopardize his right to due process and fair trial, and undermines the institution of the judiciary.
Read more: Target is corruption
Government files references against superior court judges
In a startling development, the federal government has filed complaints of ‘misconduct’ against two superior courts’ judges in connection with their alleged purchase of properties abroad that were undeclared in their income tax and wealth statements. The officials in the law ministry and the offices of the AGP have confirmed the filing of the reference to the Global Village Space (GVS).
While sources in the AGP office remained tight-lipped if the Attorney General had seen the reference, other sources familiar with the development insisted that AGP had not only seen the reference but also examined and given its opinion on the references.
The legal experts said it would be interesting to see if the spouse of Justice Isa, who has Spanish nationality, was listed as a dependent or not in the tax records of the judge.
Sources privy to the development told GVS that the newly constituted Asset Recovery Unit (ARU) comprising the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) officials have discovered the properties that were purchased in the United Kingdom – after receiving a complaint from within the UK. The ARU investigation has revealed that all four properties were located in London and purchased between 2005 and 2013.
Sources have revealed to GVS, that the three London properties were purchased by the wife of the senior judge of the Supreme Court between 2011 and 2013 and one London property was purchased by the Sindh High Court judge in 2005. The legal experts said it would be interesting to see if the spouse of Justice Isa, who has Spanish nationality, was listed as a dependent or not in the tax records of the judge.
Legal questions may arise if the judge was bound to declare properties, held in the name of his wife if she holds a foreign nationality. Separately, sources told GVS that a judge of the Sindh High Court also has properties in his own name in London. It has been reported that a complaint has also been filed against a few high courts judges.