Panama Papers case verdict will remain controversial, says former SC judge

Updated 03 Jul 2020

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Retired Justice Ijaz Ahmed Chaudhry confirms interference of agencies in judges’ appointment. — Photo courtesy VOA YouTube screengrab
Retired Justice Ijaz Ahmed Chaudhry confirms interference of agencies in judges’ appointment. — Photo courtesy VOA YouTube screengrab

ISLAMABAD: A former judge of the Supreme Court, retired Justice Ijaz Ahmed Chaudhry, has said that the verdict in the Panama Papers case against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif will always be remembered as controversial like the case of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in the 1970s.

In an interview to the Voice of America, Justice Chaudhry, who retired in December 2015, also spoke about the reference against Justice Faez Isa and narrated an incident as to how intelligence agencies interfered in the process of the appointment of judges.

Justice Chaudhry, who had also served as the Lahore High Court chief justice before his elevation to the SC, recalled that former Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf leader Makhdoom Javed Hashmi, during the famous dharna in 2014 in Islamabad, had claimed that Nawaz Sharif would be ousted from power by the Supreme Court.

At that time, he said, the judges of the apex court were surprised to hear it because at that time Justice Nasirul Mulk was the chief justice and he was a “right person”. However, he said, later it was the Supreme Court which finally removed Nawaz Sharif in the Panama Papers case in 2018.

Asked if as a judge he believed that the verdict in the Panama Papers case was right, the former judge said, “there are so many verdicts of the Supreme Court which have not been accepted by the people and they say that these decisions were not correct, like Zulfikar Ali Bhutto case…… so this is also like the same case [Bhutto case]”.

Confirms interference of agencies in judges’ appointment

Talking about the reference against Justice Qazi Faez Isa, he said, though the Supreme Court had quashed the reference, it had directed on its own that the wife and children of Justice Isa would appear before the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) on the issue of their properties, and in the light of the FBR’s decision the Supreme Judicial Council and the chief justice would look into the matter.

Asked how much interference was there in the process of judges’ appointment, he recalled an incident when a general from the Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) called him on telephone when he was appointing some judges.

“During the phone call, he [ISI general] asked me whether we were inducting judges. I replied in the affirmative. He then asked me to appoint someone as a judge,” he said.

The former judge said in return he asked the ISI general to appoint one lieutenant general at his request to which the ISI man said “it is not possible”.

Justice Chaudhry said then he told the general that it was not possible for him as well.

He claimed then there was no interference in his time and said others interfered when someone provided them this space.

Senior PPP leader and lawyer Sardar Latif Khosa, while commenting on Justice Chaudhry’s interview, said the judiciary on a number of times had been used for political engineering.

Regarding the role of intelligence agencies in appointment of judges, he said before the 18th Amendment, intelligence agencies could manipulate appointment of judges since the government had to rely on their reports before inducting judges.

Former adviser on law to the PML-N government Barrister Zaffarullah Khan said the Panama Papers case verdict was against the principle of natural justice. He said the judgement was the first of its kind as there was no precedence in any jurisprudence in which a chief executive of the government was disqualified in such a manner.

He said the superior judiciary had removed Mr Sharif over Iqama, but spared others in similar cases, adding the case of a federal minister had been pending before the Islamabad High Court for several months.

Published in Dawn, July 3rd, 2020