Justice Isa case: Full bench defers hearing due to 'non-availability' of Justice Mazhar Alam

Updated October 21, 2019

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Justice Umar Ata Bandial says a request will be sent to top judge for constitution of another bench. — Reuters/File
Justice Umar Ata Bandial says a request will be sent to top judge for constitution of another bench. — Reuters/File

The Supreme Court on Monday deferred hearing a set of petitions challenging the presidential reference against Justice Qazi Faez Isa because Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel was not available today.

According to a court order, the hearing will resume on October 28. The court order read, "One of the members of this bench, Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel, has had a demise in his family and is not available today for hearing of the part-heard constitutional petition."

"In these circumstances, hearing of the said petition cannot continue today. However, we are informed that Justice Miankhel shall resume his duties next week. Accordingly, the said petition along with connected matters is adjourned to October 28."

Earlier in the day, the 10-member full bench of the court was dissolved because of the judge's non-availability.

Justice Umar Ata Bandial, who was heading the bench, had previously said as the judges congregated that the bench had been dissolved due to the non-availability of Justice Miankhel.

"The matter of constituting a new bench is being sent to the chief justice," Justice Bandial had said.

Justice Isa's counsel, Munir A. Malik, had requested again that a full court bench be formed to hear the case, to which Justice Bandial reminded him that it is up to the chief justice to constitute a bench however he sees fit.

Initially, a seven-member bench was constituted to hear the petitions but, following the recusal of Justice Sardar Tariq Masood and Justice Ijazul Ahsan, a request had been sent to the chief justice to reconstitute a bench to hear the case. The top judge had then constituted the current 10-member bench.

Lawyers question 'urgency'

Members of the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) expressed reservations over the previous development, saying that they "cannot see justice being delivered".

Talking to the media after the court's proceedings, PBC lawyers had said that the bench had been dissolved because of the absence of one judge. They added that there was no ground to reconstitute the bench as, according to a Supreme Court order, a bench that begins hearing a petition is supposed to hear the entire case.

They said that all petitioners were present in the court and no one had expressed reservations over the current bench. The lawyers had announced that they would raise objections over the bench that would be constituted next.

"[We] don't understand the urgency [being shown] in this case," senior lawyer Ali Ahmed Kurd said outside the court.

Another senior lawyer, Hamid Khan, had said the proceedings can wait if a judge is unavailable. He added that the 10-member bench had already been formed and the chief justice "does not have the authority" to constitute another bench.

"If this happens, it will be an unconstitutional step," Khan said.

Former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association Rasheed Rizvi, while talking to reporters, said: "From the first day, it seems like these judges cannot wait to pass a verdict within two hours. Do they want to issue a verdict before someone's retirement?

"There is a judgement [which says] that once a bench is formed, it cannot be dissolved. The conduct of these judges clearly shows that there will be no justice," he accused.

PBC Vice President Amjad Ali Shah said that all petitioners who have filed appeals in connection with the presidential references against Justice Isa were present in court today for the hearing, yet the bench was dissolved due to the absence of one judge.

"We will have objections to any other bench except this one," he declared. "We want this bench to hear the case. [It] has [already] held two hearings," he said.