ISLAMABAD: A seven-member Supreme Court bench on Tuesday decided to send the matter of forming a new bench to hear the presidential reference against Justice Qazi Faez Isa to the chief justice.
This was decided after Justices Ijazul Ahsan and Sardar Tariq Masood decided to recuse themselves from the seven-member bench — headed by Justice Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justices Maqbool Baqar, Manzoor Ahmed Malik, Masood, Faisal Arab, Ahsan and Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel — hearing a set of petitions challenging the presidential reference.
Justice Masood said, “we had already decided that we will not sit on the bench.” “We have to uphold the oath we swore under all circumstances,” Justice Ahsan said.
Justice Isa’s lawyer Muneer A. Malik had requested the Supreme Court to form a full court bench of “capable judges”, who are not members of the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC), to hear his client’s petition.
Justice Bandial, in his remarks, said that some judges did not want to be part of the bench anymore and therefore, the matter will be sent to Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa. The top judge will decide if a new bench should be constituted or not.
In May, SJC issued notices to Justice Isa and Justice Karim Khan Agha of the Sindh High Court (SHC) over references filed against them.
The President Arif Alvi had filed a reference against Justice Isa for not disclosing in his income-tax returns and wealth statements three properties in the UK. Justice Isa maintained, however, that the properties belonged to his children.
The SJC — the only constitutional forum that can examine the conduct of superior court judges and recommend their removal — held a hearing of the two references on June 14.
According to media reports, the references accuse the two judges of concealing their assets and recommend action against them under Article 209 of the Constitution.
Earlier that month, against the backdrop of reports regarding institution of references against superior court judges, Justice Isa had approached President Dr Arif Alvi, complaining that selective leaks to the media amount to his character assassination, thus jeopardising his right to due process and fair trial.
An informed source had told media that in his letter to the president, the SC judge had also said he would be obliged if the former could let him know if it was correct that a reference had been filed against him.
On August 19, The SJC dismissed the reference against Justice Isa for writing letters to President.
The “private letters” written to the president by Justice Isa “ha[d] not been found by us to be serious or grave enough to constitute misconduct sufficient for his removal from the exalted office of a Judge of the Supreme Court of Pakistan,” read the order from SJC.
The reference was filed by a Lahore-based lawyer, stating that Justice Isa had violated the code of conduct by “writing letters to the president of Pakistan and sharing it with the media”.