ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry on Sunday urged the judiciary to take stock of its rapidly declining reputation in the world rankings and stated that it would be a big challenge for the next Chief Justice of Pakistan.
Justice Umar Ata Bandial will take charge as new CJP replacing Justice Gulzar Ahmed on Feb 2. The notification for his appointment was issued by the law ministry on Jan 17.
Using his official Twitter account, the information minister highlighted a question raised by Minister for Law Farogh Naseem while commenting on the Sarina Isa case judgement: “If the judges are not responsible for the assets of their wives and children, then how is it possible to hold politicians and bureaucrats accountable?”
“The judiciary needs to take stock of its rapidly declining reputation in the world rankings. It will be a big challenge for new chief justice when he swears in,” Mr Chaudhry tweeted in an apparent reference to a report released last year by the World Justice Project (WJP), according to which Pakistan ranks 130 out of 139 countries on the rule of law index.
Tweets law minister’s comment on Sarina case verdict, pins hope on new CJP
The country ranks five out of six in the South Asian region, according to the WJP Rule of Law Index 2021 released in October 2021.
The tweet from the information minister came a day after the apex court in its detailed verdict in the Sarina case observed that its June 19, 2020 direction to the tax authorities to investigate allegations against the wife of Justice Qazi Faez Isa of not declaring three foreign properties in her name and her children and submit its findings to the Supreme Judicial Council violated the principle of natural justice. In a separate note accompanying the detailed verdict, Justice Yahya Afridi observed Section 216 of the Income Tax Ordinance (ITO) 2001 was blatantly breached in the case on the unlawful directions of then ARU chairman Shahzad Akbar with the concurrence of Law Minister Farogh Naseem. Thus, it said, they breached the statutory confidentiality of her tax returns.
The SC, by a majority of six to four, had overturned its June 19 majority order, rendering the exercise conducted by the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) null and void as the fresh order set aside the verdict that authorised the FBR to evaluate and later impose tax liability against Mrs Isa for possessing three properties in the UK.
According to the detailed verdict, since judges have no public platform to clarify, respond or defend themselves, any attempt to malign judges undermine public trust and public confidence in the judicial institution. It explained that since the basic order was without lawful authority, the entire superstructure built on it fell to the ground.
Commenting on the detailed verdict, the law minister in a TV talk show termed it a ‘contradictory judgement’. He said the underline debate and original decision in the case was about ‘unexplained sources of income’. He said it would be called ‘double standards’ if judges and their families would not be inquired. With this decision, those holding public offices were under stress and jeopardy regarding accountability process. “They [judgements] are precedents for the nation,” he added.
Published in Dawn, January 31st, 2022