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Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Who has the jurisdiction to decide on Justice Qazi Faez Isa’s misconduct?

A full bench of the Supreme Court of Pakistan is hearing a case pertaining to the alleged misconduct of Justice Qazi Faez Isa. Now the question is who has the jurisdiction to decide on the matter?

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The federal government on Tuesday told the Supreme Court (SC) that it is up to the Supreme Judicial Council to determine whether SC Justice Qazi Faez Isa’s actions come under misconduct or not. Analysts believe that the apex court is expected to decide the case soon.

According to details, a full-court bench of the Supreme 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 was hearing Justice Isa’s petitions challenging the presidential reference against him.

While presenting the government’s defence, Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) Anwar Mansoor Khan said the level of honesty expected of a judge was more than that of an ordinary citizen. He added that it was up to the SJC to decide on Justice Isa’s misconduct and not the SC. “The judges are responsible for dispensing justices through their courts and if any accusations are leveled against them then it is the responsibility of the SJC to look into the matter,” he said.

The reference filed against Justice Isa alleges that he acquired three properties in London on lease in the name of his wife and children between 2011 and 2015, but did not disclose them in his wealth returns.

During the course of proceedings, the attorney general submitted a report about Justice Isa’s wife and said that she claimed she was filing returns in Karachi while her husband had stated that his income was not taxable, so he did not file returns. Justice Isa’s wife requested for transfer of records from Islamabad to Karachi, he added.

He said she had filed online returns in 2012 and 2013 but the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) issued notice to her for not filing tax returns after 2015.

Read more: PTI Government Wants Subservient Judiciary: Justice Isa Lambasts Over False Allegations

The attorney general said that the record of her tax returns had been sent to Karachi and she was also informed about the FBR report. Justice Umar Ata Bandial asked the attorney general when he would commence his arguments. The attorney general requested the court to grant him time to prepare the case.

Justice Umar Ata Bandial asked who gave the authority to the Asset Recovery Unit to inquire against the apex court judge. He asked under what law government officials made the reference public.

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

Recently, the Supreme Court inquired about where 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.

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

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.

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: PBC asks CJP not to hear presidential reference against Justice 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.