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February 23, 2020

No hidden property through offshore companies: Justice Qazi Faez Isa

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February 23, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Justice Qazi Faez Isa, Judge of the Supreme Court, has claimed that unlike many other prominent persons in Pakistan, including the present prime minister, the London properties of his family have never been owned through an offshore company or a blind trust registered in Panama, Cayman Islands Isle of Man, Jersey or any other offshore domain for tax avoidance purposes or identity concealment purposes.

Justice Faez Isa, who is facing a presidential reference accusing him of concealing his properties in the United Kingdom, allegedly held in the name of his wife and children, has submitted before the Supreme Court that these properties were bought and have always been held in plain sight in the personal names of his wife and children.

“The very same names that are on their passports on which they travel to and from Pakistan dozens of times and which are available with the protocol officers of this court, the Interior Ministry and the FIA,” the judge submitted before the court in his synopsis.

He submitted that in all of this official and private surveillance and investigation, the only thing that the Federation did not bother to check or even ask was whether the petitioner’s children were his dependents, which was the only relevant question in terms of Section 116 of the Income Tax Ordinance, 2001.

“His children were also adults and married and living with their respective spouses in the said two properties and both they and their respective spouses were gainfully employed in the UK, themselves paying all outgoings in respect of the properties and living independently,” Justice Faez Isa contended.

Referring to the allegations levelled by the PTI as well as the MQM against him in the review petitions, regarding the Faizabad Dharna judgment, Justice Faez Isa said that both political parties would have known that the nature of allegations levelled by them in their review petitions would render them liable to contempt proceedings, if found incorrect.

Elaborating, Justice Faez Isa contended that the joint decision to file substantially identical review petitions making such serious allegations against senior judges of this court was taken by the PTI and MQM, the two main parties in the ruling coalition, without consulting and taking consent of (i) the PM/PTI chairman and (ii) the law minister (who not only held the highest law office in government on behalf of MQM but was also a long-standing legal practitioner).

“It can be reasonably assumed, therefore, that the PTI and MQM’s review petitions against the Faizabad judgment were filed with the consent of their top leadership including the prime minister and the law minister,” the judge submitted. He contended that the executive has still not been able to provide any proof that the properties are or were his despite subjecting him and his family to covert surveillance and gathering information through the different departments and agencies of the state and even by hiring foreign investigators.

Therefore, he requested the apex court to initiate contempt proceedings against all concerned and criminal action against those who performed surveillance of the petitioner and his family for gathering their personal information.

Similarly, he submitted that there was no obligation under Section 116 of the Income Tax Ordinance, 2001 to disclose the assets that are owned and in possession of the non-dependent spouse and non-dependent adult-children of the petitioner. “There is no violation of any money laundering laws either by the petitioner or by the non-dependent spouse and non-dependent adult-children of the petitioner,” the judge contended, adding that since the president did not form his opinion lawfully and has violated the Constitution, hence the reference which is based upon mala fide in fact and mala fide in law to serve a collateral purpose and is motivated by ill-will is liable to be quashed.

He added that the reference is based upon material and information that was collected through unlawful means and by unauthorised persons, including the chairman ARU and the law minister and all those who they directed to do so.

“All such information was collected by violating several laws and through covert surveillance of the petitioner and his family by using unlawful means therefore, any opinion formed by the president (himself or on the advice of prime minister) on the basis of such unlawfully collected material is also tainted with illegality,” he said.

“More important, however, is the fact that the chairman ARU and his ‘legal expert’ Barrister Nasim mention that they hired private investigators to track down the Petitioner’s children, go through their credit history, find out their past and present residences and dig out the names and details of all the persons who had resided in the properties owned by them over the last 10 years. It is submitted that if the Chairman ARU – a person with no legal authority whatsoever – can do this with the family of a Supreme Court judge and with impunity; we might as well write the epitaph of the independence of the judiciary today,” he submitted.

Justice Faez Isa also said in his reply that the Supreme Court had previously removed a prime minister from office after his contempt conviction.

He said that in the Imran Khan v. Nawaz Sharif (PLD 2017 SC 265) case, there was a requirement of filing a declaration on oath by those contesting elections under the Representation of Peoples Act, 1976 (ROPA) and the case dealt with the issue of qualifications and disqualifications of members of parliament under articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution. “There is no identical or similar obligation on the judges of superior courts under law mandating such disclosure or provision of money trail of properties owned by judge’s spouse or children. The SJC cannot go beyond the four corners of the reference sent by the president (i.e. alleging breach of section 116 of the ITO) and indulge in a roving inquiry seeking information from the petitioner in relation to the conduct and dealings of his non-dependent spouse and children, which it has done and therefore it has acted coram non judice,” he said.