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SC refuses to seek help on flow of divergent views from court

Updated October 11, 2018


Hanif Abbasi seeks review of ruling exonerating PM Imran Khan in a case pertaining to alleged mis-declaration of assets. ─ INP/File
Hanif Abbasi seeks review of ruling exonerating PM Imran Khan in a case pertaining to alleged mis-declaration of assets. ─ INP/File

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Wednesday declined to issue a notice to the attorney general's office when a senior counsel requested it to seek assistance for determining whether divergent and inconsistent opinions could flow from a court.

“We are not going to issue any notice, therefore, the counsel should elaborate his arguments and point out flaws in the earlier judgement,” observed Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar while heading a three-judge bench.

The court had taken up a petition filed by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader Hanif Abbasi seeking review of the Dec 15, 2017 ruling that had exonerated Imran Khan in a case pertaining to alleged mis-declaration of assets. Last year the court had dismissed an application moved by senior counsel Mohammad Akram Sheikh to form a full bench of the apex court.

Abbasi sought review of ruling exonerating Imran in a case pertaining to alleged mis-declaration of assets

On Sept 27, an SC bench rejected Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf leader Jahangir Khan Tareen’s petition that had sought a review of his disqualification through the Dec 15 verdict.

On Wednesday, Mr Sheikh highlighted that the July 28, 2017 judgement in the Panama Papers case issued by a five-judge Supreme Court bench had laid down strict liability on unintentional mis-declaration of assets by shifting the burden to prove innocence to the respondent (Nawaz Sharif).

However, in the Hanif Abbasi case the burden was shifted away from the respondent (Mr Khan), the counsel argued, adding that the Dec 15, 2017 verdict of exonerating the PTI chairman had overlooked a series of alleged non-declarations and admissions on the part of the latter. It even ignored that concise statements filed on Mr Khan’s behalf amended his earlier statements.

The counsel argued that the court could not have different scales for two cases, therefore, divergent and inconsistent opinions could not be issued by the same court.

But Chief Justice Nisar observed that the Panama Papers case was different from Mr Khan’s case because former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who was disqualified for life for making mis-declarations in his nomination papers, was holder of a public office during the period concerned. Also, the Hanif Abbasi case was inquisitorial in nature.

The counsel argued that the trappings of Rule 26(1) of the Supreme Court Rules of 1980, which dealt with the review petitions, was not applicable on petitions moved under Article 184(3) of the Constitution. He recalled that the apex court had itself expressed willingness to determine the contours of Article 184(3) in some other cases.

He contended that 57 countries had promulgated laws for regulating how to revisit judgements if they were inconsistent. He argued that Mr Khan disclosed neither his own assets and liabilities nor that of his former spouse Jemima Khan.

Citing Article 17(3) of the Constitution, which guaranteed freedom of association, the counsel argued that it did not provide for any period but the apex court through its Dec 15 verdict provided a five-year term to look into the accounts of political parties. This had exposed the parties to the danger of being funded by enemy countries, even India.

But the chief justice observed that the court had provided reasons for this by stating that only the federal government had the authority to initiate such proceedings. He asked why the previous government, which belonged to the party being represented by the counsel, had failed to address the matter. At this, the counsel explained that he was a professional lawyer and had no link with the government.

The court, however, asked the counsel to explain which law the court had violated by providing a period of five years.

Published in Dawn, October 11th, 2018