The Supreme Court on Monday resumed hearing of petitions challenging the presidential reference against Justice Qazi Faez Isa.
Justice Umar Ata Bandial was heading the full court consisting of 10 SC judges. Justice Isa has already furnished two rejoinders to rebut the allegations levelled by the federal government in its reply and those on behalf of the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC).
At the onset of the hearing, a lawyer raised objection over Justice Bandial's presence, saying that the SJC had filed a reference against him which is still pending, so Bandial should recuse himself from the hearing. The judge responded that the SJC will decide that reference.
Meanwhile, Justice Sajjad Ali Shah reprimanded the lawyer over his behaviour and tone while Justice Maqbool Baqir asked him to leave the rostrum but the counsel refused to do so, challenging the bench to charge him with contempt of court. The bench then summoned president of the SC Bar Association who removed the lawyer from the rostrum.
Advocate Munir A. Malik, the counsel for Justice Isa, argued in the court that his client had not accused any judge of discrimination or personal grudge. He said that Justice Isa has no objection over the full court or the judges who recused themselves.
Justice Bandial reminded him that the bench had already rejected objections over the member judges.
"The core issue in the case is of pressuring judges of the superior judiciary," the counsel continued.
Talking about the issues taken up in the references, the counsel said that Justice Isa's wife had purchased the first flat in 2004, while the petitioner became a judge after five years. His assets were verified when he was sworn in as a judge, said the lawyer. The second and the third flats were purchased in 2013 by the offspring of Justice Isa, he said, adding that back in 2013 the judge was discharging his duties as the then chief justice of the Balochistan High Court.
The reference filed against Justice Isa alleges that he acquired three properties in London on lease in the name of his wife and children between 2011 and 2015, but did not disclose them in wealth returns.
Advocate Malik contested that claim, saying Justice Isa was not a beneficial owner of the flats — neither direct nor indirect.
The counsel continued that there was no allegation of corruption and dishonesty. Both Justice Isa and President Arif Alvi keep constitutional posts, he said, expressing his hope that the two would take care of the decorum of their posts.
Advocate Malik, however, put it on the record that his client had reservations over the expenditures by some people enjoying high constitutional posts.
"No one, including Justice Isa, is above the law," he said, adding that the way the SJC had taken action would also be exposed.
Malik said that a character assassination campaign against Justice Isa, who is supposed to be the chief justice in the future, has been going on since May 28.
"The lawyers' action committee and the assets recovery commission also talk about the reference. The president and the special assistant to the prime minister on information also talked about the presidential reference. [But] Justice Isa has now got a chance to defend himself in the court," he said.
The counsel recalled that the father of Justice Isa was a close friend to Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah.
"The law firm of Justice Isa was the top tax payer. In 2009, Justice Isa's annual income was Rs36 million; when he became a judge, his annual salary was equivalent to his monthly income."
Talking about the background of the presidential reference against Justice Isa, Advocate Malik said that both the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement had filed applications against Justice Isa in the aftermath of the Faizabad sit-in case verdict, delivered on February 26.
He added that both the parties are allies in the centre and both had raised same type of questions in their respective applications. Prime Minister Imran Khan belongs to the PTI while the law minister (Farogh Naseem) belongs to the MQM, he said. The federal government initiated the reference through the law ministry.
Justice Faisal Arab said it appeared that both the parties had exchanged drafts before filing the petitions and used the same computers.
Justice Mansoor Ali Shah said that the same font was used in both the applications. He raised a question about the gap between the verdict on Faizabad sit-in and the reference against Justice Isa.
Advocate Munir said that the court received an application by Waheed Dogar on April 10 while the Faizabad sit-in case was decided on February 26.
He added that a two-member bench, comprising Justice Isa and Justice Musheer Alam, had heard the Faizabad case, adding that Justice Isa in his verdict had referred to the massacre of lawyers during the tenure of [former dictator] Pervez Musharraf. "Justice Isa also unveiled the involvement of intelligence agencies in the Faizabad sit-in," he said, pointing to reasons behind the reference.
The court adjourned the hearing until tomorrow after Advocate Munir said that he was not feeling well.
Earlier in his rejoinder to the government's reply to his petition, Justice Isa had informed the apex court that the federal government had resorted to bald-faced lies and blatant inventions to defame and scandalise a superior court judge by accusing him of possessing “benami” properties abroad when the reference against him contains no such allegations.
The petitioner judge had maintained that he was under no obligation to declare the income or assets or money trail of his independent wife and children since Pakistani law did not conflate the identities of different family members merely on account of their kinship. He also raised objection over the role of the attorney general, who according to the judge was overstepping from his role.