SC judge questions legality of probe into Faez Isa’s properties

Updated October 29, 2019

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Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah of the Supreme Court on Monday observed that the process to search out the properties of Justice Qazi Faez Isa, facing a presidential reference, was apparently being conducted without due authorisation by the competent authority.  — Photo courtesy SC website/File
Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah of the Supreme Court on Monday observed that the process to search out the properties of Justice Qazi Faez Isa, facing a presidential reference, was apparently being conducted without due authorisation by the competent authority. — Photo courtesy SC website/File

ISLAMABAD: Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah of the Supreme Court on Monday observed that the process to search out the properties of Justice Qazi Faez Isa, facing a presidential reference, was apparently being conducted without due authorisation by the competent authority.

The observation came from a 10-judge full court during the hearing of a set of petitions challenging the filing of the reference against Justice Isa.

Justice Sajjad Ali Shah observed that the presidential reference does not suggest anything about the wife and children’s dependency on Justice Isa, while Justice Mansoor Shah questioned whether the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) had, in its investigations, probed this aspect. It is a mystery how the complainant found out the exact addresses of the London properties, Justice Shah observed.

Justice Umar Ata Bandial, heading the bench, observed that the SC wanted to find out how and why the top judiciary, as being claimed by the counsel, were under trial, adding he had been urging that the court should function to discharge its duties instead of adjourning cases on minor causes, which brings only embarrassment.

Full court bench hears petitions regarding presidential reference

Senior counsel Muneer A. Malik, pleading the case of Justice Isa, recalled that the FBR had served a notice to the wife of Justice Isa in 2015 about not filing tax returns, but not to Justice Isa himself. He highlighted that the reference against the judge does not allege that the three properties mentioned are owned by him, whether directly or benami.

In fact, the reference states the opposite, the counsel argued, adding the reference had not levelled the allegation of dishonesty or corruption against the judge.

Justice Muneeb Akhtar asked the counsel to inquire whether Justice Isa or his family had travelled to the United Kingdom during the period between the Feb 6 dharna judgement and the filing of the reference.

“I will have to ask my client,” the counsel, replied while reminding the bench that Justice Isa’s son lives in the UK. He highlighted that he had tried to find out the legal backing behind the setting up of the Assets Recovery Unit (ARU) under the chairmanship of Mirza Shahzad Akbar, with its office at the Prime Minister’s Secretariat. “I have checked the rules of business as amended till Aug 19, 2019, and found that it does not mention the ARU,” the counsel argued, adding that he does not know the date when the ARU was formed except that it was created after the apex court’s taking of suo motu notice against Pakistanis maintaining foreign accounts without disclosure.

Complainant Abdul Waheed Dogar was contacted to learn about the evidence and his motivation — though he did not have any evidence about the allegations. The entire collection of evidence had begun even when the complaint had not reached the desk of the prime minister, the counsel contended.

The FBR chairman marked an inquiry for conducting an analysis of offshore assets of the members of the judiciary. The Nadra database was checked, the counsel said, and that the travel history that the FIA forwarded to the ARU chairman about Justice Isa was sent on May 10.

All this information had been obtained prior to May 10 and all these letters were just the creation of a paper trail, he said. Till April 16, the reference had not been put before the prime minister, the Cabinet or the president for approval, he argued. The ARU chairman wrote a letter to the FBR chairman to obtain confidential information against the judge, he added, contending that the exact address of the London properties were obtained through surveillance.

When Justice Bandial observed that he had checked the laws relating to income tax and money laundering, the counsel retorted that the government was applying Section 9(4) of NAO against Justice Isa. The counsel also cited certain tweets and stories published in newspapers as well as the May 30 press conference of the special assistant on information, Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan, and alleged that a calculated smear campaign and media trial were launched against his client. Till then, no show-cause notice had been issued to Justice Isa by the SJC, the counsel reminded.

At the outset, senior counsel Hamid Khan requested the SC to adjourn proceedings in view of the Oct 31 Supreme Court Bar Association elections. The attorney general, however, opposed the idea, saying that an individual counsel can argue their case before the court.

Published in Dawn, October 29th, 2019