ISLAMABAD: A 10-judge Supreme Court bench will commence hearing a set of review petitions filed in the Justice Qazi Faez Isa case on Tuesday, April 13.
Headed by Justice Umar Ata Bandial, the bench will also comprise Justices Maqbool Baqar, Manzoor Ahmad Malik, Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel, Sajjad Ali Shah, Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, Munib Akhtar, Yahya Afridi, Qazi Mohammad Amin Ahmed and Amin-ud-Din Khan.
On March 18, the full court had reserved its ruling on an application moved by Justice Isa seeking permission for live streaming of the hearing of review petitions in his case against the Supreme Court’s short order of June 19, 2020 and the detailed judgement on the filing of presidential reference against him.
It is expected that the court will on April 13 announce its verdict on Justice Isa’s application for live broadcast of the hearings on review petitions and then proceed ahead with other matters in the case.
FBR report may be presented during SJC meeting to be held the next day
The court has already declared its intention to conclude proceedings on the review petitions soon since one of the members of the bench (Justice Maqbool Ahmad Malik) will be retiring at the end of this month.
Justice Isa and his wife Sarina Isa may themselves argue their case in the review petitions. Various bar associations have also filed pleas in the case through their counsel.
It is likely that the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) will on April 14 decide whether or not it should proceed afresh against Justice Isa, an incumbent Supreme Court judge, on the basis of Federal Board of Revenue’s (FBR) findings it received on three offshore properties.
According to the June 19, 2020 short order by a 10-judge bench of the apex court, which had taken up a number of petitions against the filing of presidential reference against Justice Isa, SJC chairman and Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed had to lay before the council the report furnished by the FBR for consideration, action or proceedings, if required.
Chaired by the chief justice, SJC is expected to take up FBR’s report under which it slapped a whopping penalty of Rs35 million on Mrs Isa on Sept 14, 2020 over “non-declaration of three offshore properties” in her name and those of her children.
The review petitions had argued that the directives given to the tax authorities in paragraphs 4 to 11 of the June 19, 2020 short order, in the presence of specific provisions of the Income Tax Ordinance, were in the nature of legislation and that too person-specific and thus without jurisdiction.
Moreover, these directives were issued to the very tax authorities who had disclosed information to persons conducting an investigation that was not duly sanctioned, the petition stated.
Likewise, the directives to SJC in para 9 of the short order had the effect of tainting the reputation of Justice Isa, the petition regretted. Requiring the FBR to report in respect of the proceedings ordered against Justice Isa’s spouse and children and mandating SJC to consider it, in effect created an additional mechanism by which the executive could place information before SJC, the petition said.
SJC only had jurisdiction over the superior court judges and the FBR report about the petitioner’s spouse and children was beyond its jurisdiction, the amended petition argued.
The executive could only proceed against a constitutional judge through a presidential reference under Article 209(5) of the Constitution and surely the FBR chairman could not send reports about perceived discrepancies in the tax returns of the judge’s spouse.
Thus, singling out Justice Isa’s spouse discriminated against his family, the petition said.
Meanwhile, Justice Umar Ata Bandial, who is also a member of the five-member SJC, has expressed his inability to participate in the April 14 meeting of the council.
He has recused himself from the meeting because he headed the bench that decided the petitions against filing of the presidential reference against Justice Isa on June 20, 2020.
Published in Dawn, April 11th, 2021