ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Monday ordered the federal government to engage a new lawyer fully committed to the Justice Qazi Faez Isa case since the newly appointed Attorney General for Pakistan Khalid Jawed Khan and Law Minister Farogh Naseem will not be pleading the case on its behalf.

Neither the AG nor the law minister would be the lead counsel for the federal government in the case, observed Justice Umar Ata Bandial with a direction that the government should engage a fully committed full-time lawyer when the SC would resume the hearing on March 30 or else Additional Attorney General Chaudhry Aamir Rehman would plead the case on behalf of the government.

However, the law minister will appear in person before Justice Bandial-led 10-judge full court which is hearing the challenges to the filing of the presidential reference against Justice Isa, as Mr Naseem had been impleaded by name in the case.

At the hearing, Justice Bandial cited Ayat No 12 from Surah Al-Hujrat to suggest that one should not proceed on suspicion because that can be a sin and also don’t spy on others because that is the biggest sin.

Earlier when the minister sought the court’s permission to defend himself in the case in his personal capacity and also to advance arguments on behalf of the federal government, Justice Qazi Mohammad Amin Ahmed wondered whether the minister could argue for the federal government without relinquishing his office. “That is why I have asked for permission,” the minister replied, adding that he had always been guided by the court.

SC to resume hearing of challenges to filing of reference on March 30

Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) President Syed Qalbe Hassan objected to it, wondering how the minister after having rejoined the federal cabinet could argue and plead the case. Since the moment he rejoined the cabinet, the operation of his practising certificate stood suspended in view of Rule 108-O of the Pakistan Legal Practitioners and Bar Councils Rules 1976.

In a statement issued later, the SCBA president explained that the law minister could not appear as an advocate in any court. “He can do so only if he leaves the office of the federal law minister and gets permission of the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) for the restoration of the operation of his practising certificate,” the statement explained.

The statement also accused the minister of attempting to divide the judiciary earlier and then trying to divide the legal fraternity.

At the outset, AG Khan told the court that he would try to live up to the expectation of the court but at the same time it would be fair that he should not represent the federal government since he was personally conflicted in the matter as he had already given his opinion in the case. Therefore, the court should consider the federal government’s application seeking three weeks adjournment in the matter.

At the same time, the AG also reminded the court that there were certain international commitments for which he would have to remain out of the country between March 15 and 20.

While expressing regret for the inconvenience caused to the court, the AG stated in categorical terms that his prime objective would be ensuring the independence of the judiciary, its integrity as well as each member of this institution. “You will not see me here if I have the slightest suspicion of anything being wrong against the judiciary,” the AG said.

Justice Bandial observed that the AG had been appearing in the case, he should also apply his mind in the matter. “We cannot accept whatever happened during the last hearing,” Justice Bandial observed, adding its result had also come (in the shape of former AG’s resignation).

When PBC Vice Chairman Abid Saqi invited the court’s attention towards the contempt of court petition against the law minister and ex-AG, Justice Bandial observed that his petition had not reached the court though his statements did for the independence of the judiciary.

Justice Bandial said the court could not muzzle any party but at the same time it was regretful that at the last hearing his voice was high pitched and again cited Surah Al-Imran that one should control his temper and that there should be forgiveness and regret. “This is such a short and beautiful message given in a succinct manner,” Justice Bandial observed and he also reiterated that one should never proceed on suspicion and should always be forgiving.

The PBC vice chairman highlighted that he had no personal grievance against anyone but the contempt of court petition was moved after shocking revelations came and acknowledged time and again that surveillance was done against judges and their families. “We have to take a stand when something wrong was going on since this was unethical, otherwise, no one will come to protect us,” he said.

“I have no doubt about the magnanimity being showed by the court, but we as lawyers are struggling for the realisation of the fundamental freedom and the PBC will always stand for the good of the people because there is nothing personal,” he said.

He said the respondents should reply since the entire nation was party in the contempt of court case. If a prime minister could be charged with contempt, then why not the high functionaries of the government, he questioned.

After consulting other judges, Justice Bandial observed that his contempt petition would be numbered and might be taken up on March 30, but at the same time he also clarified that the judges were not sanctimonious and were therefore open to criticism.

Published in Dawn, February 25th, 2020