ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) finally removed doubt about filing of references against superior court judges when it issued on Thursday a notice to the federal government through Attorney General Anwar Mansoor for June 14.
The government through Law Minister Farogh Naseem is expected to furnish its reply to the notice within the stipulated period on the references filed a few days ago in the SJC against Justice Qazi Faez Isa of the Supreme Court and Justice K.K. Agha of the Sindh High Court.
Informed sources said the references filed after approval by President Dr Alvi alleged that Justice Isa had allegedly acquired three properties in London on lease in the name of his wife and children between 2011 and 2015, but these were not disclosed in wealth returns.
The alleged properties on lease include 90 Adelaide Road, London E10 5NW, which was purchased for 270,000 pounds sterling on June 28, 2013; 50 Conistan Court, Kendal Street, London, bought on Oct 20, 2011; and 40 Oakdale Road, London E11, 4DL, acquired for 245,000 pounds on March 27, 2013.
Justices Qazi Faez Isa and K.K. Agha accused of purchasing properties in London, but not disclosing them in wealth returns; SCBA says it stands by apex court judge
Likewise, Justice K.K. Agha was accused of purchasing two properties in London, but not disclosing them in wealth returns.
Law Minister Naseem visited the Supreme Court on Thursday, but did not answer journalists’ questions as to why he had come to the court or divulge anything about the references.
On Wednesday, Justice Qazi Faez Isa had written a letter to President Alvi and said he would be obliged if the latter could let him know whether this was correct that a reference had been filed against him under Article 209 of the Constitution in the SJC.
Similarly, in a related development Additional Attorney General Zahid F. Ebrahim, a son of former chief election commissioner Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim, had resigned from the office, stating that in his opinion the attempt (to file references) was not about accountability of the judges but a reckless attempt to tarnish the reputation of independent individuals and browbeat the judiciary.
The five-member SJC headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Asif Saeed Khosa, if it decides to proceed against a judge, can issue a show-cause notice along with the supporting material calling upon him to explain his conduct within 14 days. On receipt of the reply from the judge, the council can convene its meeting to proceed further with the matter.
If the council at its meeting on conclusion of the proceedings forms an opinion that the judge concerned has been found guilty of misconduct or incapacitated in the performance of his duty properly, it can express its views accordingly and the same will be communicated by its chairman to the president as a report of the council for action under Article 209(6) of the Constitution.
On Thursday, the executive committee of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) expressed its concern over the media trial of the superior court judges, with its president Amanullah Kanrani emphasising that the entire body of lawyers was standing by Justice Isa.
“We have complete faith in the integrity of Justice Isa who enjoys an impeccable character and his honesty and independence are above board,” he said, adding that Justice Isa was a rich personality of Balochistan with huge lands in Pishin and Ziarat.
Mr Kanrani, who also belongs to Balochistan, recalled that the forefathers of Justice Isa had also played an active role in the creation of Pakistan, adding that the judge’s wife, also a Baloch woman, inherited huge properties and wealth in the province.
The SCBA president was of the opinion that instead of launching a vilification campaign through the media, the judges facing references should be given a fair trial and everything should be done in accordance with the law and the Constitution. “But what is being done amounts to character assassination of Justice Isa which we condemn with full force,” he said.
However, Mr Kanrani was hesitant about chalking out SCBA’s future line of action against the move, saying it would be done only when everything became crystal clear since a lot of confusion persisted currently. “We will not support the government, rather will stand by the judiciary in the present matter, but will also side with the lawyers in case of any steps taken by the judiciary against them,” he said in reply to a question.
SCBA secretary Azmatullah Chaudhry said the purpose of the reference was to build pressure on Justice Isa so that he was forced to call it a day through a vilification campaign against him.
Published in Dawn, May 31st, 2019