ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Friday constituted a 10-member bench to resume hearing from Sept 24 on a set of petitions challenging the presidential reference against Justice Qazi Faez Isa, a sitting judge of the apex court.
Headed by Justice Umar Ata Bandial, the new bench has Justice Maqbool Baqar, Justice Manzoor Ahmad Malik, Justice Faisal Arab, Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel, Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah (in case he is available), Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Yahya Afridi and Justice Qazi Mohammad Amin as its members.
At the last hearing on Sept 17, two members of the seven-judge Supreme Court bench namely Justice Sardar Tariq Masood and Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan had recused themselves from hearing the petitions.
Consequently on Sept 18, Justice Bandial had ordered constitution of the full court consisting of all available judges, with a directive to furnish the case file before Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa to ensure an appropriate order.
“The direction is being issued to promote transparency in the proceedings and confidence of all persons interested in these proceedings,” the order had stated.
Ten-member bench headed by Justice Bandial will resume proceedings on Sept 24
The apex court is seized with nine petitions filed by Justice Isa, Supreme Court Bar Association, Pakistan Bar Council, Balochistan Bar Council, Sindh Bar Council, Balochistan High Court Bar Association, Sindh High Court Bar Association, District Bar Association of Quetta and constitutional expert and senior lawyer Abid Hasan Minto along with human rights champion I.A Rehman.
The seven-member bench’s order had explained that during the 30-minute tea break the members of the bench conferred with each other and as a matter of grace for safeguarding the pristine purity, dignity and sanctity of the institution of the Supreme Court and for avoiding any motivated attribution, insinuation or discussion on the subject by any quarters, two members of the bench — for their personal reasons and of their own volition — decided to recuse themselves from these proceedings.
While advancing his arguments, Justice Isa’s counsel Muneer A. Malik, had sought the constitution of the full court comprising “eligible judges” for hearing the matter.
To explain the expression “eligible judges”, the senior lawyer had argued that the judges on the bench who might possibly benefit from the dismissal of these petitions should recuse themselves from the proceedings, in addition to the three senior judges who were members of the Supreme Judicial Council.
Mr Malik had contended that the possibility of being swayed by any consideration of a personal advantage was a ground for recusal under Article 4 of the Code of Conduct of Judges of the Supreme Court and the High Courts.
He had said that the legal fraternity and the public perceived that a personal advantage would accrue to the “ineligible judges” in the year 2023 in case the petitioner did not assume the office of the chief justice.
But the order of the seven-judge bench had said that the submissions made by Mr Malik did not disclose any interest, when the involvement of any existing tangible, palpable, personal or pecuniary interest of a judge always justified his recusal. Rather it was conceded that any tangible interest may accrue four years later.
“It involves a contingent, prospective and speculative interest,” the order had stated, adding that no precedent to hold such a future contingency to be a disqualifying factor for a judge had been cited by the counsel.
Published in Dawn, September 21st, 2019