ISLAMABAD: Supreme Court Justice Qazi Faez Isa on on Saturday questioned the need for constitutional office holders to receive prohibited bore weapons as gifts.

Justice Isa, who is facing a reference before the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC), raised the question in a letter issued on Sept 14 under the signatures of his private secretary on his instructions. The letter stated that the judge was in receipt of a Sept 5 SC circular that enclosed an Aug 21 notification from the Ministry of Interior.

The notification mentions nine categories of individuals entitled to obtain prohibited bore category weapons if received as a gift or procured from the Pakistan Ordnance Factory, the letter said. It added that SC and high court judges were amongst the nine categories.

The other offices mentioned include the president, prime minister, Senate chairman, National Assembly speaker, governors, chief ministers, federal ministers, grade 22 federal government officers and public institutions and law enforcement agenciesafter obtaining no-objection certificates from security agencies.

Justice Isa previously stirred controversy when he authored a Feb 6 judgement against the November 2017 sit in by the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan, which unnerved many institutions and prompted petitions seeking its revision.

Eight review petitions have been filed in this regard in the SC by the PTI, Ministry of Defence, Intelligence Bureau, Election Commission of Pakistan, Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority, Ejazul Haq and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement.

The Sept 14 letter highlighted Article 205 of the Constitution, which deals with the remuneration and terms and conditions of the services of judges, as well as Article 25, which ensures the equality of all citizens.

The letter highlighted that the Code of Conduct for judges also does not permit receipt of such gifts, although the interior ministry notification permits the receipt of gifts of prohibited bore weapons by constitutional office holders.

The letter said a number of questions of constitutional importance thus arise, such as why constitutional office holders would receive gifts of prohibited bore weapons, who they would receive such weapons from, how those gifting such weapons have themselves acquired them, and whether those gifting the weapons have acquired them illegally or if they would be gifting illegally acquired weapons.

The letter said the Ministry of Interior appeared to be implementing two sets of rules in the country, thereby undermining the concept of rule of law.

The letter said there was considerable doubt as to whether the notification meets constitutional criteria, and also appeared to erode the laws governing arms.

The letter asked what moral authority the government would have exercising the spread of weapons by encouraging the spread of more lethal, prohibited bore weapons.

Published in Dawn, September 15th, 2019