Law has 'safeguards' regarding investigations against judges, Justice Isa's lawyer tells court

October 15, 2019

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A larger bench hears Justice Qazi Faez Isa's petition against presidential references against him. — SC website/File
A larger bench hears Justice Qazi Faez Isa's petition against presidential references against him. — SC website/File

The legal counsel of Justice Qazi Faez Isa on Tuesday called into question the credibility of Waheed Dogar, the 'complainant' who had first written to the government's Assets Recovery Unit (ARU) alleging that the judge owned property abroad that had not been disclosed in his (Justice Isa's) asset statements.

The complaint had culminated in the government filing a reference against Justice Isa.

A 10-member larger bench, headed by Justice Umar Ata Bandial, had today resumed hearing petitions filed by Justice Isa challenging the presidential reference against him.

Advocate Muneer Malik, who is representing Justice Isa, questioned how legal proceedings could be launched against a judge on the basis of the complaint filed by Dogar.

He argued that there are "certain safeguards" in the law regarding investigations against judges.

"The complaints were received, evidence was collected and references were filed each at different times," Malik noted.

"Do you mean to say that the investigation against the judge was initiated without due process?" Justice Maqbool Baqar, member of the bench, asked.

Malik told the Supreme Court that Dogar had written to the ARU in April soon after Justice Isa issued his verdict in a case pertaining to the Faizabad sit-in.

"The letter [written by Dogar] does not have a phone number or address and does not mention any property that belongs to Justice Qazi Faez Isa," Advocate Malik pointed out, reading out the letter for the court.

"What is the Asset Recovery Unit and why is it in the Prime Minister Secretariat?" Justice Mansoor Ali Shah, also part of the bench, asked.

"Can you tell the court about the legal status of the Assets Recovery Unit?" Justice Baqar inquired. Malik only offered that "there is no civil servant in the ARU".

"According to you, the investigation [against Justice Isa] began because of the [actions of the] Assets Recovery Unit?" Justice Baqar asked.

Malik said that the ARU, after receiving the complaint, had written to the law minister on May 10 asking for his position on the matter. He added that ARU officials had also met with Federal Investigation Agency officials on the same day. During that meeting, the name of Justice Isa's wife and her Spanish nationality had surfaced for the first time, Malik said.

"Her name came up because of a visa request," Justice Bandial noted. "Justice Qazi Faez Isa's wife had been granted a five-year visa."

"But how did Dogar know her name?" Malik argued. Malik insisted that the identities of Justice Isa's wife and their son had been brought forth for the first time after Dogar's letter.

The lawyer also questioned the solidity of Dogar's accusation against the judge. "Dogar obtained the documents [provided as evidence against Justice Isa] after an online search for London properties," the lawyer claimed.

"Can you take data from London's land authority online?" Justice Mansoor Ali Shah wondered.

"You can find out about plots but you cannot find out who they belong to," Malik responded.

"The question is, how was the information regarding the property gathered?" Justice Bandial said, to which Malik answered: "The information was gathered by stalking the petitioner and his family."

"Do you want to say that the FIA and FBR (Federal Board of Revenue) had provided all the information to Dogar?" Justice Bandial asked.

Malik said Dogar had also informed the ARU about Justice K.K. Agha's dual nationality and the property owned by the judge, but failed to provide any documentary evidence.

The lawyer argued that Dogar seemed to be a "fake appellant".

"Are you saying that Dogar is a proxy [for another complainant]? The logic is not understandable," Justice Muneeb Akhtar remarked.

"Dogar is not a trustworthy man, I am telling you this about his credibility," Malik responded.

Justice Bandial asked if Justice Isa had ever given money to his wife as a gift. "I can let you know after confirming this," Malik said.

"We will have the answer to that question," Justice Bandial said.

The court subsequently issued notices to the respondents of the fresh constitutional petitions filed against the Supreme Judicial Council's proceedings in the matter.

The hearing was adjourned till Wednesday.

Justice Isa's petition

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 his wealth returns.

The top court judge denies the allegations and has claimed that they are being levelled against him in order to attack him and his family.

In a rejoinder submitted to the top court on Sunday, Justice Isa claimed that the government wanted a subservient judiciary. The government’s team first painted a target on the petitioner’s back but when it did not work, they stooped to target his family and exposed them to danger, the rejoinder filed by Justice Isa in response to government allegations said, adding that this was a demonstrable fact showing malice, mala fide, ulterior motives and victimisation.

He further said that the law of benami set out a number of tests to establish benami ownership, but in the present case not even a single component was met. There was not an iota of evidence to prove that the petitioner judge had paid for the purchase, let alone established that. No reason was ever given why the petitioner judge would resort to buying properties in the name of his wife and adult-children, the rejoinder questioned.