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September 13, 2017

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Five-member bench formed for Panama case review

Five-member bench formed for Panama case review

ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar on Tuesday constituted a five-member larger bench to hear the review petitions filed by the ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his scions, challenging its July 28 verdict in the Panama Papers case.

A five-member larger bench headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, Justice Gulzar Ahmed, Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed and Justice Ijazul Ahsan will hear the review petitions from today (Wednesday).

On Tuesday, a three-member bench – headed by Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan and comprising Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed and Justice Ijazul Ahsan – heard the review petitions and referred the matter to the chief justice for constituting the larger bench.

Appearing on notice, Khawaja Haris, the counsel for Nawaz, and Salman Akram Raja, the counsel for his scions, contended that only the five-judge larger bench was competent to hear the review petitions.

The counsels argued that the final verdict was signed and announced by a five-judge larger bench, thus a three-judge bench could not hear the pleas both ‘technically and legally’.

They said if a three-member bench gave any relief to the petitioners, it could not be passed on to them in the presence of the five-member bench verdict.They also contended that the review petitions against the July 28 judgment delivered by a five-judge bench should be taken up first. Justice Ejaz, however, observed that the three-judge bench gave the majority verdict in the Panama Papers case and the decision would not have been different had the three-judge bench given a verdict in the case.

After hearing the arguments, the court accepted the request and referred the matter to the chief justice and adjourned further hearing till today (Wednesday). Later, the chief justice constituted the five-member bench.

Earlier on Monday, Maryam Nawaz, Hussain Nawaz, Hassan Nawaz and Capt (retd) Safdar moved an application, praying that their review pleas should be heard by a five-member bench, instead of the three-member bench, and that the hearing be delayed till the formation of such bench.

They reminded the court that they had filed two separate review petitions — one against the decision of the five-member bench and the other against the decision of the three-member implementation bench – thus the application against the decision of the five-member bench should be heard first.

They contended that since July 28 verdict that disqualified Nawaz Sharif as prime minister was final, and signed and announced by a five-member bench; therefore, the review petitions should also be heard by a five-member bench, not a three-member.

The application further stated that the same five-member bench or any other bench of the same size should be constituted to hear the review applications against the five-member bench verdict.

“In terms of legal and constitutional dispensation of the State of Pakistan, a Supreme Court bench of lesser strength cannot upset or pre-empt the decision of a larger bench," they contended. Earlier on August 15, the former prime minister filed three petitions in the Supreme Court to review the Panama Papers verdict which resulted in his disqualification.

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