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September 18, 2019

Judges available as their replacements in larger bench


September 18, 2019

ISLAMABAD: After recusal of two justices, only five judges are now available for nomination of two of them as members of the larger bench of the Supreme Court that will hear the challenge to the filing of presidential reference against Justice Qazi Faez Isa in the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC).

In order of seniority, these judges include Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Yahiya Afridi and Justice Qazi Muhammad Amin Ahmed. Two of them each hail from Punjab and Sindh and one from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).

The Supreme Court has a total strength of 16 judges. Of them, five judges continue to be members of the bench while five of them have either chosen not to be part of it or recused from it or can’t be inducted in it.

Being members of the SJC, Chief Justice Saeed Khosa, the senior most judge after the topmost judge, Justice Gulzar Ahmed, and Justice Mushir Alam, who after the retirement of Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, was made a member of the SJC because of his seniority, stayed away from the larger bench. They did not join the panel because the very proceedings of the SJC of which they are members have been called into question through a slew of petitions, and the larger bench is seized with them.

Obviously Justice Isa can’t be taken in the panel for being a party to the case. Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Sardar Tariq Masood recused from hearing of the case by the larger bench on objections raised by Justice Isa’s lawyer Munir A Malik.

Five judges - Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Maqbool Baqar, Justice Manzoor Ahmad Malik, Justice Faisal Arab and Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel – continue to be part of the bench that stood dissolved after the recusals on Tuesday. Two of them each belong to Punjab and Sindh and one to KP.

Justice Qazi Faez Isa, who faces charges of misconduct on account of non-disclosure of assets in his wealth statement, has filed a fresh application seeking formation of full court bench comprising all eligible judges to hear his petition against the presidential reference. He has cited the Supreme Court precedent set in the judgment in the Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry vs President of Pakistan when the full court had quashed a reference, being heard by the SJC, against the then top judge, which had been filed by the then president Pervez Musharraf, against him.

Among seven petitions, two were filed by Supreme Court Bar Association and Pakistan Bar Council, challenging the reference against Justice Isa, contending that the case was motivated by the judge’s verdict in the Faizabad sit-in case.

A reference had been instituted by President Dr Arif Alvi in May this year against Justice Isa accusing him of concealing his properties in the United Kingdom, allegedly held in the name of his wife and children. The judge subsequently wrote three letters to the president, asking him to confirm whether the media reports were true. He complained that selective leaks of the reference amounted to his character assassination, jeopardising his right to due process and fair trial. He also sought a copy of the reference.

A lawyer from Lahore, Waheed Shahzad Butt, had filed a second reference before the SJC against Justice Isa for writing these letters and leaking them to the media. In this second reference, filed under Article 209 of the Constitution, the judge was accused of violating the Code of Conduct for judges.

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