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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) has turned down a request for postponement of its proceedings on a complaint filed against a sitting judge of the Lahore High Court (LHC) and fixed the case for Jan 8.

A five-judge SJC bench, headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, held the proceedings of the council in an open court on Thursday after accepting an earlier request by Hamid Khan, who is representing Justice Muhammad Farrukh Irfan Khan.

A reference was filed against Justice Irfan after his name surfaced on a list of individuals who allegedly own properties abroad.

Regional tax officer submits returns of the judge for 2001-2002

During the proceedings, Additional Attorney General Amir Rehman produced Sarmad Qureshi, Lahore’s Regional Tax Officer, as a prosecution witness. He submitted the tax returns of the judge for 2001-2002.

The defence counsel objected that the earlier council order had required the officer to produce tax returns of the period 2010-12 since the judge was a practising lawyer in 2001-02, and not on the bench.

But the council overruled the objection and allowed the witness to produce the returns for 2001-02. The prosecution told the council that the tax returns of the judge for the years 2003 to 2006 were never filed by him prior to his elevation as a judge.

The AAG argued that the regional officer had issued a notice to the judge for setting up an offshore company and then not disclosing it.

However, the defence counsel argued that it was beyond the jurisdiction of the council to go into such details.

The prosecution then produced a representative from the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) who showed documents relating to business companies of the judge’s family. The documents related to the filing of prescribed forms showing that the judge had resigned from the companies as legal adviser or director before taking oath as judge of the High Court on Feb 20, 2010.

The AAG also wanted to produce himself as a witness and to bring on record certain documents as had been done previously by Ashtar Ausaf Ali, the former attorney general which was made part of the record earlier by the council but on the objection, had allowed re-submission of the same on Thursday.

Hamid Khan also requested for some time since some of the defence witnesses were abroad till mid of the current month. The court however denied the request and fixed the case for Jan 8.

The defence counsel also argued that the judge never formed any company, adding that the offshore companies were a single purpose vehicles only for mortgaging properties for tax efficiency/saving purposes.

The counsel also argued that the judge never transferred any funds from Pakistan to abroad and that before his appointment as a judge on Feb 20, 2010, the judge resigned from all family businesses and positions. The resignation letter was also filed to SECP besides no tax was ever evaded.

Moreover the foreign properties were mortgaged from self-payment from income abroad and mostly by bank mortgages besides the foreign earnings from abroad were transferred to Pakistan through banking channels.

Published in Dawn, January 4th, 2019