Justice Isa Case: Supreme Court to Take up Government’s Appeal Today

Mon Apr 10 2023
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CJP Bandial will conduct in-chamber hearing on the government’s plea to withdraw ‘curative review petition’ which was moved against the sitting Supreme Court judge, Justice Qazi Faez Isa, by the PTI government

By Special Correspondent

ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial will take up today (April 10) the federal government’s request to withdraw the “curative review petition” which was moved against the sitting Supreme Court judge, Justice Qazi Faez Isa, by the PTI government.

The curative review petition was filed against a court order that had accepted the review petitions challenging the court’s June 19, 2020 judgment on the presidential reference against Justice Isa in which the court had empowered the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to hold an inquiry into the properties and assets of the family of the judge.

Justice Isa, Supreme Court

Earlier, the Supreme Court Registrar’s office had returned a set of nine curative review petitions on May 25, 2021 filed by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government on the grounds that the petitions contained “scandalous language”. The SC Registrar’s office also observed that a second review petition could not be filed against a decision already given on a review petition. The Registrar highlighted that the curative appeals contained many other deficiencies.

Subsequently, the PTI-led federal government lodged an appeal before the apex court against the refusal by the Registrar’s office to entertain unheard of legal remedy — curative review petition — in the Justice Isa case.

PTI govt moved SJC against Justice Isa, SHC’s Justice K K Agha

The PTI-led federal government had, on May 23, 2019, moved the Supreme Judicial Council – the forum that can hold superior court judges accountable – against Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Sindh High Court judge Justice K K Agha over the non-disclosure of the assets of their families abroad, in their wealth statements.

However, in June 2020, the top court quashed the presidential reference filed against Justice Isa and the subsequent Supreme Judicial Council proceedings. “Reference No 1 of 2019 is declared to be of no legal effect whatsoever and stands quashed, and in consequence thereof the proceedings pending in the SJC against the petitioner [Justice Isa] including the show-cause notice dated 17 July 2019 issued to him stands abated,” read a short order.

A 10-member full court had announced the decision after hearing for more than six months a slew of petitions filed against the reference that claimed that Justice Isa had committed misconduct by not disclosing his family members’ properties in the United Kingdom in his wealth statements. Interestingly, former PM Imran Khan had admitted in April last year that filing the presidential reference for removal of Justice Isa was a “mistake”.

On April 26, 2021, the apex court’s majority judges also quashed the Federal Board of Revenue’s (FBR) proceedings against Justice Isa and its report on the matter. The majority judgment, issued on January 29, had accepted Justice Isa and his wife’s review petitions with a majority decision of 6:4 against the June 19, 2020 order.

Justice Isa, Supreme Court

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led federal government had contended that the SC’s April decision to accept Justice Isa’s review petition against its June 19, 2020 verdict closed the door of judicial accountability and that the order “suffers from actual bias and reasonable perception of bias”. By a majority of 6 to 4, the top court on April 26 accepted Justice Isa and others’ review petitions against the SC’s June 19, 2020 split order in which the court had directed the Federal Board of Revenue to conduct an inquiry into the foreign assets of Justice Isa’s family members.

The bench had also ordered the Revenue Authority to submit its report to the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) which theoretically could revive a presidential reference seeking the removal of Justice Qazi Faez Isa. However, in the April 26 order, the Supreme Court also quashed the FBR’s inquiry report.

Later, the PTI government filed a “curative review” against the judgment on behalf of the federal government, President Dr Arif Alvi, Prime Minister Imran Khan, Minister for Law Dr. Farogh Naseem, Adviser to the PM on Accountability Mirza Shahzad Akbar and FBR legal expert Ziaul Mustafa Nasim. The SC registrar’s office, however, returned the curative review after raising certain objections.

The government had stated that the April 26 order was unconstitutional, unlawful, against fundamental rights of the public at large and oppressive. Therefore, it had added, the order was liable to be revisited, revised and recalled. “The order is against the independence of the judiciary and its accountability,” it had added.

“The concept of independence of the judiciary does not mean to protect the benefits of individual judges. The majority judgment in the review petition is against Islamic jurisprudence and moral principles of judges code of conduct.” It had said the majority order usurped the role of the SJC in clearing Justice Isa. The government had maintained that Justice Isa and his wife Isa did not come to the court with “clean hands”. “By failing to answer the three questions posed by the bench to Justice Isa, a clear and sufficient connection of Justice Isa with his wife’s foreign currency bank account from which the payment was made to acquire the London properties has been established.”

However, on 30 March 2023, the PDM government led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif ordered the withdrawal of the curative review reference as the government decided not to pursue the matter further. The federal cabinet had already approved the decision.

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