By Rehan Piracha & Ahmed Saeed
In a split verdict, the Supreme Court on Monday accepted Justice Qazi Faez Isa’s review petitions challenging the apex court order to the Federal Board of Revenue to initiate tax proceedings against his wife and children.
A 10-member bench, headed by Justice Umar Ata Bandial, was hearing review petitions filed against the apex court’s June 19, 2020, judgment in the presidential reference against Justice Qazi Faez.
In a 6 to 4 majority verdict, the bench declared legal actions taken by the FBR and all other forums related to the assets of Justice Isa’s wife and children as “illegal”.
“All the subsequent proceedings, actions, orders, information and reports in pursuance of the directions contained in the short order dated 19.6.2020 and the detailed reasons thereof, are declared to be illegal and without any legal effect,” reads the short order.
The FBR’s report could not be challenged in the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) or any other legal forum, the verdict said. “Resultantly, any such proceedings, actions, orders or reports cannot be considered or acted upon and pursued any further by any forum or authority including the Supreme Judicial Council,” the short order concludes.
Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, Justice Muneeb Akhtar and Justice Qazi Ameen disagreed with the majority verdict. However, Justice Yahya Afridi, Justice Maqbool Baqar, Justice Mazhar Alam Miankhel, Justice Manzoor Ahmed Malik, Justice Aminuddin Khan and Justice Yahya Afridi, accepted the petitions.
In the hearing on Monday, Justice Isa alleged that new evidence was being made part of the proceedings.
Sarina Isa, wife of Justice Qazi Faez Isa, said that Justice Bandial and Justice Akhtar were making efforts for accountability which is why they should make their assets and the assets of their wives public.
Counsel for the federal government Amir Rehman said that the actions of the Supreme Judicial Council could not be challenged nor could it be stopped from scrutinising any evidence. “The Supreme Court can only interfere in the council under extraordinary conditions.”
Justice Baqar questioned whether it would not affect the Supreme Judicial Council if the top court’s judges gave their observations on the FBR report.
Rehman replied that the Supreme Court had the right to ask questions according to rules. “The court can also ask for statements to be recorded to ascertain facts. The foundation of the case is three questions.”
Though, the Supreme Court had set aside the presidential reference against Justice Qazi Faez Isaover allegations of owning foreign properties, seven of the 10 judges on the bench ordered 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.
Justice Isa then approached the apex court, seeking a review of the decision. Bar associations, including the Sindh High Court Bar Association, also filed similar petitions. On February 24, the chief justice constituted a 10-judge bench to hear the review petitions.
Pakistan Bar Council to call for resignation of Law Minister
Khushdil Khan, vice chairman of Pakistan Bar Council, praised the verdict of the apex court. “The judgment will be considered as a landmark in the independence of the judiciary,” he told Voicepk.net. He said the bar council was also a petitioner in the case.
However, Khush Dil khan said the bar council would consider bringing a resolution to call for the resignation of Federal Law Minister Farogh Naseem for his role in orchestrating an illegal reference against the Supreme Court justice Qazi Faez Isa and his family. “The mala fide reference brought by the law minister wasted precious time of the court and in our forthcoming meeting we would discuss a resolution calling for the law minister’s resignation,” he said.
Abid Saqi, former chairman of the PBC, said the short order is a defeat of the federal government and the federal minister should quit his portfolio over his role in the matter.