In short order, full-court bench of Supreme Judicial Council dismisses reference, accepts plea of Justice Isa
The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed the reference filed by the government against Justice Qazi Faez Isa, declaring it “invalid.”
Issuing a short order, seven judges of Supreme Judicial Council bench hearing the case ruled that the tax record of Justice Isa’s family should be forwarded to the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and the matter conclusively resolved. A progress report into the FBR’s investigation would be submitted to the Supreme Judicial Council, reads the ruling, adding that if the judges feel any further intervention is required, they would take action of their own accord and a fresh presidential reference would not be required.
The court had concluded hearings and reserved its judgment on several pleas challenging the presidential reference against Justice Isa earlier today, adding and would announce a short verdict at 4 p.m.
The government had filed the reference against Justice Isa in May 2019. It alleged that he had bought three properties in London on lease under the names of his wife and children between 2011 and 2015 but had failed to disclose them in his tax returns. The judge contested the accusations, saying his family members obtained the properties independently, and he had not gotten any benefit from them.
On Thursday, Justice Isa’s wife appeared before the Supreme Judicial Council via video-link to address the questions raised by the government about the provenance of her assets. She told the 10-judge full court, led by Justice Umar Ata Bandial, £700,000 were transferred through banking channels from Pakistan to the U.K. from 2003 to 2013. Of this, she said, £600,000 was transferred before 2009, when Justice Isa was not even a judge and had been working as a lawyer.
The judge’s wife said this money had been obtained through the sale of agricultural land in Karachi and Islamabad, which she had inherited from her father. “We are quite satisfied that you have the material in support of the source [of money] for the properties,” observed Justice Bandial after she was finished recording her statement. “You have a strong answer to the slur caused by the allegations,” he added.
Earlier on Friday, Justice Bandial said Mrs. Isa had brought all documents pertaining to the properties on record and the government would verify them.
Munir Malik, counsel for Justice Isa, said he could “not understand” what the government’s case was about, adding that it was clear the judge had no links to his wife’s properties. Echoing points raised by the judges themselves, he argued that the government had brought the reference to the Supreme Judicial Council instead of going to the FBR, as was required. Justice Isa was forced to challenge the presidential reference to defend his family’s honor, he said, and urged the court to dismiss the reference as invalid.
Justice Isa’s counsel also alleged that the government had filed this reference because it wanted to de-seat the judge who had announced a verdict implicating the military in the Faizabad sit-in case. “The court should not consider this petition as the case of an individual. Do we want a law that allows one institution to spy on another?” he said.
Iftikhar Gilani, representing the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Bar Council, said 29 separate petitions had been filed by different bar councils and bar associations against the presidential reference. “These are not Justice Isa’s relatives. The government’s reference has no basis and is against the freedom of judges,” he said.
Farogh Naseem, who resigned as the federal law minister to appear before the court in this case, is representing the government. He has maintained that the property of Justice Isa’s wife cannot be separated from the judge, offering precedence from other countries whose laws are not in accordance with ground realities in Pakistan.