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July 8, 2020

Federation files arguments in Justice Faiz Isa case: ‘Judge cannot object to publicising details of London properties’

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July 8, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The Federation told the Supreme Court on Tuesday that the owners of the London property, like the petitioner’s Justice Qazi Faez Isa’s family, neither themselves nor through him can raise any objection about the details of their London properties being made public or anyone seeking details thereof.

Barrister Farogh Naseem, counsel for the Federation in the presidential reference filed against Justice Qazi Faez Isa for allegedly not disclosing his family properties in London in wealth returns, filed written arguments in the Supreme Court. A 10-member full court of the apex court headed by Justice Umar Ata Bandial on June 19 had quashed the presidential reference and halted the proceedings pending in the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) against Justice Qazi Faez Isa as well as the show-cause notice issued to him on July 17, 2019. The court had asked the Federation’s counsel to submit his written arguments.

In the written arguments, the Federation’s counsel contended that admittedly, the three London properties are registered with the UK Land Registry and the owners of the said properties are bound by the terms of the UK Land Registry website, underscoring that no registered owner of a property, except in case of limited exemption from disclosure pointed aforesaid, “cannot opt out” of their “property information being published”. “The latter term sufficiently creates an estoppel (the principle precluding a person from asserting something contrary to what is implied by a previous action or statement or judicial determination) in terms of Article 114 of our Qanoon-e-Shahadat Order, 1984 against the petitioner and his family from objection against the disclosure of details of the three London properties,” the Federation counsel submitted.

Naseem further submitted that the efficacy of the open sources to locating details of immovable properties in the UK has been demonstrated by the petitioner himself, who has himself filed CMAs Nos 3505 and 3550 of 2020 in which he attempted to locate the UK properties of M/s Imran Khan, Mirza Shahzad Akbar and Firdous Ashiq Awan, etc. “Whether this act of the petitioner in attempting to locate the UK properties of the latter persons, does not amount to covert surveillance and breaching their right of privacy? Surely, not,” Naseem contended. For the purposes of correction of the record, it may be pointed out that the petitioner only followed the first step of entering names in open websites such as 192.com, without undertaking the second step of reconfirming the addresses obtained through 192.com, from the UK Land Registry website, the Federation counsel maintained. He submitted that a half-baked attempt was made by the said petitioner and hence the accuracy of the information was incorrect. M/s Imran Khan (Prime Minister), Mirza Shahzad Akbar (SAPM) and Firdous Ashiq Awan (former SAPM) do not hold the properties mentioned by the petitioner in his CMAs.

“There is now ample authority for the proposition that no right of privacy can be claimed in respect of any matter/information which could be found in a public record,” Farogh Naseem submitted. He cited the judgment of the Supreme Court of South Carolina, USA, in Troyce Brindel Meetze vs. The Associated Press in 230 S.C. 330 (1956) = 95 S.E.2d 606 (decided on December 11, 1956). In this case, Farogh Naseem submitted that a 12-year-old young lady had a baby boy. The press/media captured this news and the young lady and her husband filed an action seeking damages for invasion of privacy rights. The young lady stated that she did not wish any publicity for having given birth at a young age of 12 years. He submitted that the plaintiffs claimed that the press coverage was an unwanted public gaze and their rights of privacy were breached. He however, contended that the Supreme Court held that the birth of the child was a biological occurrence, the details whereof had been entered as a public record in the Birth Register, which contained the details of the respective ages of the parents under the rules and regulations. Thus, as the press covered a fact which was a public record i.e. the age of the mother, the right of privacy of the parents was not invaded. The action was dismissed.

Referring to the allegation leveled by Justice Qazi Faez Isa in his petition regarding covert surveillance and the right of privacy, the Federation’s counsel also cited the Al-Jehad Trust verses Federation of Pakistan, reproducing its page 387 and para 39 on which the letter of of Hazrat Ali (RA) written to the then Governor of Egypt, Malik bin Ashtar, was mentioned that relates to appointment of Qazis. It was directed that “When appointing Qadis, select holy and pious persons for the post.