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February 4, 2020

Justice Faez Isa reference: Under what authority ARU conducted inquiry against judge, SC asks govt

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February 4, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Monday directed the government to explain in detail under what authority the Asset Recovery Unit (ARU) was empowered to conduct an inquiry against a sitting judge of the apex court.

A 10-member full court headed by Justice Umar Ata Bandial resumed hearing in the identical petitions challenging the presidential reference filed against Justice Qazi Faez Isa for allegedly not disclosing his foreign properties in his wealth returns. Other members of the bench include Justice Maqbool Baqir, Justice Manzoor Ahmed Malik, Justice Faisal Arab, Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel, Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Yahya Afridi and Justice Muhammad Qazi Amin Ahmed.

During the proceedings, Attorney General Anwar Mansoor Khan sought a two-week time for submitting his arguments in rebuttal of the instant matter.

Justice Umar Ata Bandial asked the attorney general to inform the court on two points, first under what authority the ARU was assigned the task to probe a sitting judge of the Supreme Court. Secondly, Justice Bandial told the AG that he should also inform the court that how the government made public the presidential reference against the judge of the apex court and why the reference was debated publically which was first meant for referring to the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC).

Earlier, in pursuance of the court’s previous order, the attorney general submitted a report of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) stating that Mrs Qazi Faez Isa visited the FBR office on January 27 and expressed a preference that her case be transferred from Islamabad to Karachi for which she also lodged an application. The FBR submitted that Mrs Faez Isa was apprised that she could file her tax declarations online under Section 114 of the Income Tax Ordinance, 2001 from anywhere and outside Pakistan. She had already filed her income tax declaration for T/Y 2012, 2013 and 2014 online and Mrs Faez Isa was also assured that her request would be disposed of promptly as per law. The FBR further submitted that Mrs Faez Isa’s case accordingly be transferred to Karachi as per her desire wide FBRs jurisdiction order No 7 (1) jurisdiction/2018-11922-R, dated January 30.

It further submitted that earlier the jurisdiction of Mrs Isa’s case was transferred from Karachi to Islamabad along with other similar case for administrative convenience in that her husband Justice Qazi Faez Isa’s case rested in Islamabad, adding that this is further stipulated that assignment of jurisdiction falls within the administrative domain of the FBR objected to by the taxpayer under section 209(4) of the Income Tax Ordinance 2001. The FBR contended that Mrs Isa’s statement that she “stopped filing when I no longer had taxable income as I had stopped working on June 30, 2008, and sold the property which gave me taxable income,” is not corroborated by the facts of her case as she herself filed tax returns for T/Ys 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 manually and for T/Y 2012, 2013 and 2014 online. “Moreover, since she did not file her tax declarations for the years 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018, she was issued system generated notices U/S 114 of the Income Tax Ordinance 2001 and no tax returns for these years have yet been filed,” the FBR informed the court.

It further submitted that Mrs Isa was extended full cooperation and assistance and she left the office satisfied. It is pertinent to mention here that on the last hearing Salman Akram Raja, counsel for Pakistan Bar Council (PBC), while continuing his arguments quoted media reports and pointed out to the court that wife of the petitioner Justice Qazi Faez Isa visited the office of the FBR and asked the authorities as to why she was not issued notice for her foreign assets but her spouse was asked instead. He had submitted that the wife of the petitioner sought information regarding transferring of her tax record from Karachi to Islamabad besides inquiring as to why she was not issued notice for her foreign assets.

Salman Akrm Raja said the FBR authorities did not cooperate with the lady. At this, the court had directed the AG to inquire form the FBR about the case and submit the report.