EDITORIAL: A 10-member Supreme Court bench hearing a review petition, filed by a brother judge Justice Qazi Faez Isa backed by some civil society groups in an assets beyond means presidential reference against him, overturned its June 19 majority seven to three verdict with a six to four decision. As per the short order read out by one of the dissenting members and head of the bench, Justice Umar Ata Bandial, the entire exercise, all proceedings, actions, order, information and reports in pursuance of the directives issued through the June 19 order as well as the detailed reason of that order have been declared null and illegal and without legal effect. And that no forum, including the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) would consider or peruse any report, or order to hold proceedings or action, etc.
It may be recalled that in its earlier judgement, the bench had quashed the presidential reference but authorised the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to evaluate and impose tax liabilities against Sarina Isa, for possessing three properties in the UK. She and their children were required to furnish their replies to FBR notices along with evidence, and upon the receipt of their replies to the Income Tax Commissioner, who after giving them an opportunity to be heard, was to issue an order. On its basis, the FBR Chairman was to make a report to the SJC through its secretary to be placed before SJC chairman – Chief Justice of Pakistan. The SJC could initiate proceedings under Article 209 of the Constitution under its suo motu jurisdiction. The entire process now stands invalidated; nevertheless, the outcome and the proceedings of the review petitions will be discussed and debated for long not only by legal circles but many others. Notably, out of the seven judges who were behind the majority verdict, Justice Faisal Arab has since retired; taking his place Justice Amiruddin Khan gave his decision in the petitioners’ favour. It is also important to note that two members of the bench, Justice Manzoor Malik and Justice Mazhar Alam Miankhel, who had earlier gone along with the majority, have now revisited their decisions in favour of the petitioners.
The proceedings have been remarkable for the highly emotional manner in which Justice Isa pleaded his own case. In other words, his conduct was found to be characterized by intense feelings that he openly displayed in the courtroom at various stages of the hearing of this case – a case that has arguably added a new chapter to the science of law. It was perhaps unbecoming for a complainant apex court judge (Justice Isa) to do anything so crass as using harsh words against the judges. Let’s turn over a new leaf. If the outcome of a situation is happy, this compensates for any previous difficulty or unpleasantness. The executive, in particular, needs to draw a lesson from this unsavoury episode and make a careful and critical examination of each and every reference that it decides to file in court of law. Last but not least, few can quarrel with Justice Bandial’s observation that accountability of judges is essential to retain the confidence of people in the institution of judiciary. In doing so, Justice Bandial has, therefore, raised the bar, asking, albeit impliedly, his brother judges to perform even better.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021