Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday directed Law Minister Azam Nazir Tarar to withdraw the curative review reference filed against Justice Qazi Faez Isa of the Supreme Court, observing that the action was taken by the previous government on “flimsy” and “baseless” grounds.
A decision in this regard had already been taken by the federal cabinet last year.
In a tweet today, the PM said that the curative review was based on “ill-will and meant to harass and intimidate the honourable Judge at the behest of Imran Niazi”.
Separately, in a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) today, PM Shehbaz said that Justice Isa and his family were “harassed and defamed” in the name of the reference.
“This was not a reference, but a vendetta by Imran Khan Niazi, a vindictive person, against a fair-minded judge who followed the path of the Constitution and the law,” the statement quoted the PM as saying.
He maintained that the reference was a nefarious conspiracy to divide the independence of the judiciary, recalling that the PML-N and allied parties had condemned the move even when they were in the opposition.
“Imran Niazi misused the constitutional office of the president for this criminal act and President Arif Alvi became an instrument in the attack on the judiciary and an accomplice to a lie.”
The PMO statement added that lawyer organisations across the country, including the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC), had also opposed the reference and asserted that their opinion was valued.
Justice Isa — in line to become the chief justice in September this year — was in the news a day earlier for a judgement he authored along with SC’s Justice Aminuddin Khan, which stated that the chief justice of Pakistan did not have powers to make special benches or decide its members. They also said that the hearings based on suo motu notices and cases of constitutional significance — under Article 184(3) — should be postponed until they are legislated upon.
Justice Khan cited the judgement as the basis for his recusal from hearing the elections delay case in the SC, which resulted in the dissolution of the five-member bench.
Justice Isa’s legal battle
The reference filed against Justice Isa by the PTI government in May 2019 alleged that he acquired three properties in London on lease in the name of his wife and children between 2011 and 2015, but did not disclose them in his wealth returns. Justice Isa contested the allegation, saying he is not a beneficial owner of the flats — neither directly nor indirectly.
On June 19, 2020, a 10-member SC bench threw out the presidential reference against Justice Isa and termed it “invalid”. However, seven of the 10 judges on the bench ordered the Inland Revenue Department and the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to seek explanations from the judge’s wife and children on the nature and source of funding for three properties in their names in the United Kingdom and submit a report to the SC registrar.
Later in 2021, Justice Isa won a case which set aside the SC’s aforementioned directive after which the entire exercise conducted by the FBR was rendered null and void.
However, even when the reference was finally quashed in the second round i.e. the review petition by Justice Isa, the PTI government had instituted a curative review, which was still pending before the Supreme Court.
Imran expresses regret over reference
However, just after he was ousted from the PM’s office through a no-trust vote last year, PTI Chairman Imran Khan had blamed the law ministry in the PTI government responsible for sending the reference against Justice Isa and termed it a “mistake”.
Imran while talking to a group of reporters had acknowledged that the filing of the reference was an “attempt to unnecessarily confront the judiciary”.
However, former law minister Farogh Naseem had brushed aside the blame stating that the reference was moved only on ex-PM Khan’s insistence.
On the other hand, PTI Fawad Chaudhry had regretted that Farogh Naseem, being the former law minister, should have accepted the responsibility of sending the reference since it was his doing.
He had also claimed that being the cabinet minister he had opposed the filing of the reference against judges and asked that bar associations should move it, but it was on the insistence of Naseem that the reference was sent.
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