• Minister-turned-lawyer agrees a reasonable explanation will end controversy
• Petitioner judge says FBR ridiculed his spouse on her visit to its office
ISLAMABAD: Attired in a grey suit, Justice Qazi Faez Isa on Wednesday wrote history when he entered the Courtroom No 1 as a messenger of his wife to seek an audience for her via video link and satisfy the Supreme Court’s 10-judge full court about the source of three-offshore properties in her and children’s name.
However, the bench reminded the petitioner judge that they had complete respect for him and it was not appropriate for him to appear when the message could have been conveyed through his counsel Muneer A. Malik, as the former might overcome with emotions.
When Justice Isa came, Dr Farogh Nasim, the counsel for the federal government, was occupying the rostrum to justify the filing of the presidential reference against Justice Isa.
Justice Isa’s appearance is being dissected by legal observers against the backdrop of Tuesday’s proposal by the Supreme Court that the government could pursue the reference before the Supreme Judicial Council after first exhausting tax proceedings at the Federal Board of Revenue.
The government side, which had taken a day to respond, acceded to the SC suggestion, as Dr Nasim explained that he met Prime Minister Imran Khan whohad no objection to the proposal provided the judge and his wife assured the tax commissioner of their cooperation.
The counsel said the prime minister also denied of having any properties in the UK and said he was ready to resign and the properties should be confiscated if proved that they belonged to him. Former PM’s aide Firdous Ashiq Awan took the same position, he said apparently in response to Justice Isa’s recent application about their undisclosed offshore properties along with those allegedly belonging to Assets Recovery Unity (ARU) chairman Shahzad Akbar.
Justice Bandial observed that both sides played to the galleries instead of showing patience. Sitting at the Karachi Registry of the Supreme Court, Mr Malik said he was reaching Islamabad on Thursday to re-consult his client.
The appearance of the judge, however, sparked a raging debate in the courtroom during a short break when the court retired for consultation on Justice Isa’s request seeking an audience for his wife via video link.
On Wednesday, Justice Isa began his assertion before the full court by stating that for the first time he understood the real meaning of the Quranic verse that persecution was worse than death, also beseeching the court to initiate contempt of court proceedings after the assertion made by former Attorney General for Pakistan Anwar Mansoor Khan that one of the lords on the bench assisted and drafted the petition.
Justice Isa said it was not because of the respect of any individual but for the respect of the institution that his wife wanted to share details of the properties not to anybody but to the court since the matter was in the public domain. So far, he said, the government had failed to answer why she had not been inquired about the properties when she was in Islamabad. Not even the Supreme Judicial Council called her, he added.
She had painfully suffered since her father was suffering from brain cancer yet she wanted to share details of the properties not with anybody else but with the court, because when she went to the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) without any protocol or guard she was “ridiculed”, Justice Isa recalled.
Justice Umar Ata Bandial, who was heading the full court, described the offer as a big development, adding it was very noble and honourable of the wife to address the court but the court would respond after pondering over it.
Dr Nasim then said he had no personal animosity with the judge and his family and it would be the end of the matter if some reasonable explanation was given. He also claimed he had complete respect for Justice Isa’s wife and that he never intended to hurl insults at or mock the judge.
The court took a break for a few minutes and when reassembled said it had considered the request as it was a crucial evidence for the resolution of the controversy. The court then asked Justice Isa to request his wife to furnish a written application stating her position along with relevant documents. But Justice Isa contended that she wanted to address the court during which the court could ask thousands of questions about the properties. He insisted that justice not only must be done but it must also be seen to be done.
He said neither she was a lawyer or assisted by any counsel nor being a judge he could advise her. “I don’t know in what way she will write the application and if she attach something like a bank document etc, they will get hold of my account and may deposit five million pounds to accuse me of taking bribe and to make it the basis of a second reference,” Justice Isa feared.
The petitioner judge said they (the government) had the audacity to appear on TV screens on a daily basis, even the President holding the highest office arranged three TV interviews in the presidency, discussed the reference against him. Also Assets Recovery Unit (ARU) chairman Mirza Shahzad Akbar himself spoke about the reference while the former AG called the former law minister liar and vice versa. He said: “Farogh Nasim may continue with his puffing, but I am no hypocrite.”
Justice Bandial asked Justice Isa to take a seat and said that his wife’s convenience could not dictate the court.
The petitioner judge again emphasised that despite her statement, he would still press the petition, as he had heard the government side saying the “FBR did not take any action because they got scared”. Justice Isa said: “Tomorrow they will say that no one can go against the wife of the judge.”
“Don’t go on apprehensions,” Justice Bandial observed, adding that the court would like to inquire from his counsel Muneer A. Malik as the petitioner judge was emotionally involved in the matter.
At the conclusion of Wednesday’s proceedings, Mr Malik explained to the court that when he signed the case, it was not for an individual but for the independence of the judiciary as he believed that the paragon of the principles of the judiciary was stained. The last instructions from his client was that the case should be decided on merit, because the petitioner judge did not want to sit on the court with a sullied reputation, the counsel said, while regretting about the smear campaign against the judiciary.
He said he would come back to Islamabad on Thursday to re-consult his client. The court, however, said it would pass an order in this regard on Thursday.
Earlier during the hearing, Justice Maqbool Baqar regretted that we did not have a history to be proud of since it was a known fact how the executive had intervened to trample the constitution and paralyse institutions including the judiciary.
“Please let us make our effort because we do not want to be on the wrong side of history,” Justice Baqar observed. He also was critical about roping of a judge through mere roving inquiry.
Justice Bandial observed that to retain the confidence of the public and to maintain the majesty of the laws, this court could not allow anyone to challenge the integrity of the judge to bring the institution into disrepute.
Published in Dawn, June 18th, 2020