Papers from UK form basis of references against judges: govt

Updated 04 Jun 2019

Email

The SJC had issued a notice to the federal government through the attorney general regarding references filed against Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Justice Karim Khan Agha for hearing on June 14. — Photo courtesy Supreme Court website
The SJC had issued a notice to the federal government through the attorney general regarding references filed against Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Justice Karim Khan Agha for hearing on June 14. — Photo courtesy Supreme Court website

ISLAMABAD: Spokespersons for the Ministry of Law and Justice and the Assets Recovery Unit (ARU) of the Prime Minister’s Office, claimed in a joint statement on Sunday that they had received certified copies from the land registries of the assets in the United Kingdom owned by learned judges of the superior courts, on the basis of which references had been filed against them before the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) as per the Constitution.

The spokespersons said the copies were duly attested by the High Commission of Pakistan in the UK and notarised in London.

Giving a background, they said there was a dire need to put into place an effective mechanism whereby foreign assets of Pakistanis were detected and an action taken in accordance with the law.

Copies of land registries of assets owned by the judges are notarised in London and attested by Pakistan High Commission, say law ministry, ARU

According to the statement, “in consequence of the aforesaid and also in view of the public demand to bring unlawful wealth” back to Pakistan, Prime Minister Imran Khan immediately upon taking oath of office established the ARU in his office with support from all relevant government departments. The ARU has worked relentlessly to achieve the task assigned to it.

Read: Reference against judges

The spokespersons said the ARU detected properties of Pakistanis abroad and reported them to the respective departments. Collaterally, they said, the ARU also received complaints with regard to existence of properties of Pakistanis abroad and once any complaint was received, the ARU was duty-bound to take an appropriate action.

Verification of complaint

“In the backdrop as aforesaid, the ARU received a complaint/information in respect of the foreign properties of three learned judges. Under the Rules of Business 1973, the matters pertaining to judges fall under the umbrella of the Ministry of Law and Justice and hence the complaint/information was placed before the ministry for an appropriate action,” they said.

The spokespersons said the law ministry then directed the ARU to verify the contents of the complaint, clearly suggesting that action would only be taken once verification was received.

Accordingly, they said, the ARU conducted verification and “was able to receive certified copies from the land registries of the relevant assets”.

“This information was laid before the SJC, in terms of two references duly concurred upon by the learned Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP), their excellencies the Prime Minister and the President of Pakistan, strictly in terms of the law and the Constitution, in particular Article 209 of the Constitution,” they said.

“Once having received the complaint/information in question, had the ARU, the AGP, the Ministry of Law and Justice, the prime minister and the president omitted to lay the said information before the SJC, they would have [been] alleged to have derelicted their duties,” they said.

The ARU, the law ministry, the PM and the president reiterated their commitment to upholding the law and the Constitution with an emphasis on keeping the judiciary in the highest esteem, the spokespersons concluded.

The law ministry had earlier explained that the ministry on its own had no mechanism to look into the assets of any judge and, therefore, was bound to process complaints it received from the ARU and the FBR in the best interest of the country.

It said the ministry believed in upholding the rule of law and would continue to do so.

The SJC had issued a notice to the federal government through the attorney general regarding references filed against Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Justice Karim Khan Agha for hearing on June 14.

According to media reports, the references accuse the two judges of concealing their assets and recommend action against them under Article 209 of the Constitution.

The lawyers’ representative bodies across the country have convened their meetings after Eid to devise future strategy as most of the bodies and opposition parties have opposed the government’s move to file references against the two judges, terming it an effort to undermine the independence of judiciary.

The opposition-dominated Senate had last week adopted by a majority vote a resolution demanding withdrawal of references filed against the two judges.

The Senate had expressed grave concern over filing of references against the two judges by the president “in a secretive way” while the judges concerned were unaware of the move.

The resolution said the filing of references had evoked serious criticism, caused split in the bar and led to resignation of the additional attorney general.

The Senate expressed solidarity with “the judges under siege”, lawyers’ elected representatives and the bar councils and demanded withdrawal of the references.

Published in Dawn, June 3rd, 2019