SC bench dissolves after Justice Qazi Faez Isa’s lawyer raises objection
ISLAMABAD: A Supreme Court of Pakistan bench hearing a set of petitions pertaining to presidential reference against Justice Qazi Faez Isa was on Tuesday dissolved after the lawyer of the apex court judge Munir Ahmed Malik raised objection on its formation.
A seven-member larger bench headed by Justice Umar Atta Bandial and comprising Justice Maqbool Baqar, Justice Manzoor Ahmed Malik, Justice Sardar Tariq Masood, Justice Faisal Arab, Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel conducted the hearing.
Raising objection on the bench, Munir A. Malik, counsel for Justice Qazi Faez Isa, said some of the judges should have refused to hear the case because no judge can become a judge of his own cause.
Munir A. Malik requested that a full court bench excluding members of the Supreme Judicial Council be formed. “Justice must also be seen to be done,” he argued.
He said the judges who have a personal interest in the matter should not be part of the bench. When Justice Umar Atta Bandial asked him about the judge who he thinks can be biased, the lawyer said he won’t say any judge is biased.
Justice Bandial said he wants to convey that no judge of the Supreme Court is biased because every judge performs his duty in accordance with the Constitution and the Law.
He said no judge of the court had any interest in any case. “You are going in wrong direction by talking about bias of the judges. We want to hear more arguments on the matter,” Justice Umar Atta Bandia said.
The lawyer said people must have confidence on the judiciary and justice can’t be done if there is lack of trust. Justice Bandial said it was not fair to raise questions about the bench in the beginning. He said judges have no personal interest and it would open the door for rumors.
The lawyer said two members of the bench who would possibly become chief justice in the future have direct interest in the case. Justice Faisal Arab said that the Supreme Judicial Council will continue its proceedings if Munir Ahmed Malik failed to prove his point.
The lawyer said his client has no objection to the person of any judge and the matter only pertains to the image and prestige of the court.
To Munir A. Malik’s objection, Justice Tariq Masooq said he had already made his mind to not become part of the bench. Justice Ijazul Ahsan said he is also rescuing himself to fulfill the requirements of justice.
The lawyer said he respects both the judges and reposes full trust in them. Justice Umar Atta Bandial, however, said he has reservations over the way removal of the judges was sought.
To his query regarding reasons for the recusal request, Muir A. Malik referenced precedents set by Justice (retd) Ajmal Mian and Justice Falak Shair who recused themselves from hearing similar cases in the past.
Announcing his recusal, Justice Ahsan said the reservations against him were “unfortunate and not justified” but he was recusing himself to “maintain the highest standard of fairness”.
Justice Ijazul Ahsan noted that he was obligated by oath to “do right to all manner of people according to law without fear or favour affection”. “I will not allow personal interest to influence my official conduct or my official decisions,” he said. “I have no doubt in my mind that I can uphold the Oath of my office and the high ideals this office represents.”
Justice Sardar Tariq Masood, on the other hand, said he had decided not to hear the case before Justice Isa requested his recusal. “We had already decided that we will not sit on the bench,” Justice Masood said.
“We have to uphold the oath we swore under all circumstances,” Justice Ahsan said.
After Munir A. Malik’s argument, the Supreme Court bench was dissolved and the request for new bench was sent to the Chief Justice of Pakistan.
The presidential reference filed in the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) against Justice Isa cites that his wife allegedly purchased properties abroad which the judge did not disclose in his wealth statement. Justice Isa, however, maintains that he is not responsible to answer for his wife or adult-children nor is he under any obligation to disclose any information concerning them.
“That section-116 of the Income Tax Ordinance does not require a person to declare the assets of his wife and children unless the same are in fact his own assets purchased through his own funds and merely being held Benami [anonymous] in their name,” underscores a petition filed by the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA).
Meanwhile, the SJC proceedings against Justice Isa and Justice KK Agha of the Sindh High Court have already been put on hold since the filing of petitions in the apex court.
Additionally, Justice Isa also moved an application seeking the formation of a full-court bench consisting of all available judges of the apex court instead of the present seven-judge bench. Citing 2010 judgment in Iftikhar Chaudhry case, he argued that the full court was necessary as the matter pertained to a reference against an SC judge.
The Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC), the Sindh High Court Bar Association (SHCBA), Quetta Bar Association (QBA) president Mohammad Asif Reki, President of High Court Bar Association, Quetta, a joint petition by jurist Hassan Minto and rights activist IA Rehman and the Sindh Bar Council (SBC) have also challenged the presidential references.