SC larger bench for early hearing of 17 petitions challenging presidential reference against Justice Isa

October 08, 2019

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Justice Qazi Faez Isa.— Photo courtesy of the SC
Justice Qazi Faez Isa.— Photo courtesy of the SC

A 10-member larger bench of the Supreme Court — led by Justice Umar Ata Bandial — on Tuesday turned down a plea by the counsel of Justice Qazi Faez Isa seeking deferment of the hearing of his petition against a presidential reference for two weeks; instead adjourning the hearing till October 14.

The larger bench had today resumed hearing a set of 17 petitions challenging the presidential reference against Justice Isa. Justice Bandial, while turning down the plea, said that a member of the bench has to travel out of the country after two weeks.

Read more: SJC immune from judicial review, AG tells SC in Justice Isa case

Justice Bandial said that for now the court is only listening to the arguments surrounding maintainability of the petitions.

Attorney General Anwar Mansoor today also submitted his reply to the petition filed by Justice Isa. The court directed the attorney general to provide a copy of his reply to all petitioners in the case.

Munir A. Malik — the counsel for Justice Isa — argued in court that while the petition says that allegations against his client were based on malafide intentions, there was no mention of the point in the reply to the petition.

Justice Bandial reminded Malik that the case had already been deferred because of his illness. He added that two judges had also detached themselves from the bench because of the petitioner's objections. "This was a painful process," he said.

Justice Bandial noted that the case is one of its kind. Munir responded that the case is a trial of the entire judiciary.

Justice Bandial further said, "The matter is also important for this institution [judiciary], [so] we have to examine the record produced in the court."

Malik argued that the judge and his family members were spied upon. "A campaign was launched against my client," he said.

Justice Bandial asked the counsel to elaborate his allegation with the help of the background of the case.

Malik responded that his client had passed a verdict which was disliked. "Following the decision, a well deliberated campaign was launched against my client," he added.

"Three properties were purchased overseas when the petitioner was chief justice of the Balochistan High Court," Justice Bandial noted, asking if that wasn't the case.

Malik responded, "The entire nation is looking to this bench, so why hurry?"

"I want the 10-member bench to safeguard this institution," he added.

Justice Bandial said, "We are trying to hear the case as soon as possible."

"We are here to hear cases. Let us know if you want a prolonged deferment of the case," he said. The head of the bench further said that an "honourable friend" from his "community" has been accused so the bench wants to hear out the matter post haste.

He asked Munir to submit his arguments in response to the replies to the petition as soon as possible.

Raza Rabbani, who has also petitioned the court, also asked to be heard. He said that he has additionally highlighted the 2005 rules in his plea while some points in the petition were the same as in other applications.

Justice Bandial replied to Rabbani that the court will listen to him on his turn after the counsel of the central petitioner in the case completes his arguments.

Senior counsel Rasheed A. Rizvi, representing the Sindh High Court Bar Association before the apex court, raised an objection saying that the court at this point was neglecting 15 other petitioners.

"This is a case, not a cake in which everyone ought have a share," Bandial responded to Rizvi.

He added that the bench has to get on with hearing the case. He said that Rizvi will be provided a copy of the reply submitted by the attorney general.

Bilal Manto, another senior counsel and a petitioner in the case, said that he has already submitted an application seeking answers about the establishment of the Supreme Judicial Council. He said he has also sought record of the proceedings in the council. "I won't be able to present arguments without access to the record," he said.

"Your request will be considered at a later stage," Justice Bandial said.

A reference had been instituted in May this year against Justice Isa, accusing the judge of concealing his properties in the United Kingdom allegedly held in the name of his wife and children. After news of the reference hit TV screens, the judge wrote multiple letters to President Arif Alvi, asking him to confirm whether the reports were true.

Subsequently, another reference was filed by a lawyer from Lahore over the judge’s act of writing to and seeking information from the president, accusing him of violating the code of conduct for judges.

The Supreme Judicial Council (SJC), however, quashed the second reference as it did not find the matter "serious or grave enough to constitute misconduct sufficient for his [Justice Isa's] removal from the exalted office of a judge of the Supreme Court".