Sarina Isa, the spouse of the apex court’s Justice Qazi Faez Isa, has been directed by the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to pay Rs35 million in taxes after she was unable to give ‘satisfactory answers’ to questions regarding her income and properties.
Sarina Isa says the FBR’s a 164-page order in this regard is an illegal one since she was not given an opportunity to explain her case, reported The Express Tribune. Despite repeated requests, they didn’t give details of documents that implicated her, she has argued.
As the FBR slaps Sarina Isa with the fine, legal experts are deliberating over the impact the tax judgment will have on the future of Justice Isa in the top court, as the FBR inquiry into the income of his wife was initiated after a court order into a case involving the judge.
سرینا عیسی کے معاملے میں FBR نے ابھی پرنسپل آ ماؤنٹ کا تعین کیا ہے جسکے بعد جرمانے کا نوٹس بھیجا جائیگا۔ اس فیصلے سے جسٹس قاضی فائز عیسی کی مشکلات میں اضافہ ہو رہا ہے کیونکہ اثاثے چھپانا جرم ہوتا ہے۔ SJC بھی اس پہلو کو ہی دیکھے گی۔ حکومتی قانونی شخصیت کا تبصرہ— Hassan Ayub Khan (@HassanAyub82) September 18, 2020
A top court bench had earlier this year quashed a presidential reference against Justice Isa by ruling that the FBR should investigate tax evasion and income-related matters of Sarina Isa, effectively clearing Justice Isa from misconduct allegations.
However, there is a looming possibility that Justice Isa may be called before the Supreme Judicial Council, the body overseeing matters related to judges of superior courts, to explain himself again after the latest FBR notice to his wife.
In the presidential reference filed against Justice Isa, the government had alleged that Justice Isa had failed to declare the true income and asset details of his wife to the state, thereby dodging taxes, and hence was not fit to serve in the top court.
حکومتی قانونی شخصیت کے مطابق ایف بی آر کے فیصلے سے یہ بات بھی ثابت ہو گئی ہے کہ جسٹس قاضی فائز عیسی اور انکی اہلیہ کا یہ کہنا غلط تھا کہ انکے پاس ساری منی ٹریل موجود ہے۔ اگر منی ٹریل موجود ہوتی تو وہ پیش نہ کر دی جاتی؟ عدالت پہلے ہی کہ چکی ہے کہ ججز سب سے زیادہ قابل احتساب ہیں۔— Hassan Ayub Khan (@HassanAyub82) September 18, 2020
Legal experts believe that that the SJC might look into two matters in light of the FBR order. The first one relates to misconduct allegations against the judge. The second one related to the judge’s wife and her tax evasion, provided she doesn’t challenge the FBR.
Sarina Isa married Justice Isa on December 25, 1980, and purchased some foreign properties between 2003-2013. Justice Isa joined Balochistan High Court as its chief in 2009 and was elevated as Judge of the Supreme Court of Pakistan on 5 September 2014.
This implies that one or two properties of Justice Isa’s wife were acquired before he was made a top court judge. Sarina Isa maintains that her agricultural assets and salary were not included in her assets, nor were assets that were later sold in Karachi.
A Lahore-based lawyer argues that there is no specific law that demands judges to declare the assets of their sources or independent children. “In Pakistan, we see people seem to be mixing judges with politicians.”
“Politicians are required to fill a paper issued by the ECP before contesting their elections but judges are not asked to declare the properties of their independent children/spouse,” the experts told GVS in an exclusive interview.
Constitutionally, the SJC is not empowered to summon the spouse of the judges in any matter related to the tax evasion. However, in this particular case, argue analysts, the SJC may ask the judge to present the money trail of the properties acquired after he was a judge of the Balochistan or Supreme Court. Then again, the source maintains, the SJC is likely to cross its constitutional jurisdiction as it will ask a judge to present the sources of money he never claimed to possess. Can a judge be asked to present the money trail of his independent wife, Justice Mansoor Ali Shah had asked during the hearing of the case?
It is not clear yet as to how will the SJC proceed with the case. The detailed order of the SC’s decision is still pending. The SJC is likely to wait for the detailed verdict to move on, experts opine.
Presidential reference against Justice Isa
The Isas’ assets have become the subject of debate ever since a presidential reference was filed against Justice Isa for not declaring all his assets. Justice Isa challenged the reference and said his wife and adult children had their own assets and he was not responsible for them.
Sarina had appeared before the FBR in July to present proof of her ownership of those assets. She presented them to Inland Revenue Commissioner Zulfiqar Ahmed. On June 18, she revealed details of her London properties to the Supreme Court while recording her statement via video link.
#BREAKING: 6 page statement of Mrs. #JusticeQaziFaezIsa before #FBR. She requested FBR that can you share PM Imran Khan, Shahzad Akbar and Farogh Nasim income tax records that she can see did they disclose their wives and children properties in their income tax records? 1/2 pic.twitter.com/b7O3sWGcTF
— Asad Ali Toor (@AsadAToor) July 10, 2020
According to the judge, his wife and children, have on their names, three properties in the W2, E10 and E11 areas of London. “The properties were purchased between 2003 to 2013 and banks don’t keep records of more than 10 years, I faced many difficulties to get the record of these three properties in my name,” Sarin Isa told the court earlier this year.
She revealed that she bought one property for £23,600 in 2004, another for £270,000, which is under her and her daughter’s name, and the third one for £245,000 in 2013. Her son lives in one of the properties and has put the other two on rent. The money for the purchase was sent from her foreign currency bank account to London.
The money was transferred to an account which is only in my name, she added. Among her immovable properties worth Rs52,340,010, she disclosed her first immovable property worth Rs12, 020,660 with 50 percent share of children in 50-Coniston Court in London, according to her statement submitted with FBR officials.
Second immovable property worth Rs19,181,050 with 50 percent share with her son in 40-Oakdale Road London was showed in returns while another moveable property worth Rs21,138,300 with 50 percent share with her daughter in 90-Adelaide Road London declared, read her financial statement for year 2019.
“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.
Is Justice Isa facing consequences for writing a ‘strong judgment’?
As the FBR slaps Sarina Isa Rs35 million fine, it is important to understand the background of the case. 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.
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.”