ISLAMABAD: The senior counsel pleading Justice Qazi Faez Isa’s petition before a full court bench of the Supreme Court pointed out on Tuesday that the confidential information related to property had been fed to the complainant without approval of the lawful authority.
Advocate Muneer A. Malik said the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) shared the confidential UK property information with Abdul Waheed Dogar on whose complaint investigation against the SC judge commenced.
“The information regarding three properties in the United Kingdom was acquired through surveillance during the interregnum period between the Feb 6 announcement of Tehreek-i-Labaik Pakistan-dharna verdict and the filing of the complaint,” the counsel emphasised.
“You mean to say that something was cooking up,” observed Justice Maqbool Baqar — a member of the 10-judge full court that had taken up a set of petitions challenging the filing of the presidential reference against Justice Isa on non-declaration of foreign properties in the wealth statement.
Says material collected through eavesdropping, snooping, complete surveillance of family members
One of the highlights of the otherwise smooth and calm proceedings was the sudden appearance of the complainant, Mr Dogar, in the courtroom on Tuesday. The bench asked him to take his seat instead of standing close to the rostrum amid his attempts that he be noticed.
Advocate Malik reminded the court that Mr Dogar had furnished a complaint before the Assets Recovery Unit (ARU) highlighting that being a law-abiding citizen and an investigative journalist, he believed in the accountability of all, including judges, and that he had been able to acquire information regarding properties of three superior court judges namely Justice Isa, Sindh High Court judge K.K. Agha and former Lahore High Court judge Furrukh Irfan.
The counsel said in the case against former chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, the then president had authorised filing of the reference, but Mr Dogar was not even a civil servant to be shared with confidential information.
He said the ARU in Prime Minister Secretariat received the complaint on April 10 and ARU chairman Mirza Shahzad Akbar acted immediately on the law minister’s direction to interview Mr Dogar within four days. The complainant, however, only shared the ‘online search’ results that he said he had acquired through London’s land registry office about one property in the name of Justice Isa’s wife. But he did not provide further evidence regarding other properties, the counsel said, wondering how Mr Dogar could have collected such information without even knowing the name of Justice Isa’s wife. He highlighted that the properties under UK laws could not be searched online due to data privacy laws unless the person on whose title the property had been registered moved an application or by someone duly authorised by a court of law.
Perhaps the version, the counsel was advancing, was that the complainant had been supplied with the information as he was a “proxy”, observed Justice Umar Ata Bandial, who was presiding the full court. He said the counsel’s contention was that Mr Dogar was fed with the information by the FIA and the FBR and that too without due authorisation.
Advocate Malik wondered if the superior court judge could be investigated in such a manner so that he could be proceeded against under Article 209 of the Constitution by the Supreme Judicial Council. This was done through eavesdropping, snooping and complete surveillance of the family members, the counsel feared.
After the collection of the material, the complaint was initiated for the filing of the reference against Justice Isa over misconduct, the counsel said.
If such mode of collection of material and evidence against the judge was approved, then it would set a trend that any SHO might initiate investigations against judges in future, the apex court was reminded. Such a trend would obliterate the concept of separation of the executive from the judiciary, the counsel argued. There were certain safeguards in place before proceeding against a judge under Article 209, the counsel explained.
Justice Faisal Arab said that only the president and the SJC were the opinion makers for proceeding against a judge. Others including SHOs were not opinion makers against judges, he remarked.
Published in Dawn, October 16th, 2019