ISLAMABAD: As a seven-judge Supreme Court bench will formally commence on Tuesday (today) hearing on a set of petitions challenging the presidential references, the counsel representing the petitioners may request it to constitute a full court consisting of all available judges.
The lawyers pleading the case are also expected to question the presence of two judges in the seven-member SC bench who are said to be the direct beneficiary in case the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) hearing the presidential reference decides against Justice Qazi Faez Isa of the apex court.
The bench headed by Justice Umar Ata Bandial consists of Justices Maqbool Baqar, Manzoor Ahmed Malik, Sardar Tariq Masood, Faisal Arab, Ijaz-ul-Ahsan and Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel. The bench is seized with a number of petitions moved by Justice Isa himself, the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC), a joint petition by eminent jurist Abid Hassan Minto and rights activist I.A. Rehman, the Sindh High Court Bar Association (SHCBA), Quetta Bar Association (QBA) president Mohammad Asif Reki, High Court Bar Association, Quetta, President Abdul Basit and the Sindh Bar Council (SBC).
Counsel may seek full court, question presence of two judges in seven-member bench
Former SCBA president Muneer A. Malik will represent Justice Isa, senior counsel Rasheed A. Razvi will appear on behalf of the SHCBA, senior counsel Hamid Khan will argue for the SCBA and Kamran Murtaza and Azam Nazeer Tarar will represent the PBC.
The SJC proceedings in the presidential references against Justice Isa and Justice K.K. Agha of the Sindh High Court have already been put on hold since the filing of petitions in the apex court. Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, one of the judges of the five-member SJC, had retired and was replaced by Justice Mushir Alam.
In addition to his earlier petition against the filing of the presidential reference against him, Justice Isa had on Aug 26 moved an application seeking formation of a full court consisting of all available judges of the apex court instead of the present seven-judge bench. He had argued that the full court was necessary because the present matter pertained to a reference against the apex court judge and as per the precedent established in the 2010 SC judge in the Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry case.
In his application, Justice Isa had said he was ready to face any reference if conducted in accordance with the law and propriety, but regretted that he, his wife and children had allegedly been subjected to persecution when the Holy Quran stated that persecution was worse than death. The application had contended that the petitioner’s wife and adult children were illegally surveilled through intelligence apparatus and by misusing public funds.
Personal data, records and documents of the judge’s wife and adult children were probed, examined, scrutinised and analysed, including the confidential record maintained by Nadra, FIA, Passport and Immigration Office, FBR and the interior ministry, the application had contended. Then the harvested mismatched information and documents were used to paint half-truths and put together a false reference by launching insidious attack against the judge, it alleged.
The application also mentioned in detail the judge’s two meetings with the chief justice and said he did not raise these issues merely for the enforcement of his fundamental rights but also because something far more sinister was afoot — the very destruction of the independence of the judiciary at the hands of an executive which had overstepped the prescribed constitutional boundaries.
The petition requested the Supreme Court to dismiss the presidential reference on the sole ground of the complainant’s failure to establish the allegations made against the judge as found by the council.
Published in Dawn, September 17th, 2019