ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court of Pakistan, on Wednesday, categorically inquired the counsel, Farogh Naseem, who appeared before the apex court as counsel of the federation after resigning from the federal cabinet, that who authorized Asset Recovery Unit (ARU) to conduct investigation against Justice Qazi Faez Isa.

A 10-member larger bench, headed by Justice Umar Ata Bandial raised the question, while hearing identical petitions challenging presidential reference against Justice Qazi Faez for allegedly not disclosing his foreign properties in his wealth statement. Besides the apex court judge, Pakistan Bar Council, Supreme Court Bar Association, Bar Councils & Association of Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan and prominent lawyer, Abid Hassan Minto, and renowned journalist and human righrts activist I A Rehman have also challenged the Presidential Reference against Justice Qazi Faez Isa.

During the hearing, Justice Maqbool Baqir asked that who authorized the ARU and from where the ARU got the authority to conduct search against the apex court judge.

Justice Mansoor Ali Shah questioned that how the ARU engaged a private person to search the properties of a judge’s wife. Justice Baqir said that in how many days the information was collected after the instruction of the ARU chairman, to which Farogh Naseem, representing the federation and chairman ARU Shahzad Akbar, replied that it took less than a month. He argued that in 1988 a law was passed in England by virtue of which after 2001 it was opened that anyone who had registry number could find out who owns the property by paying £2 to £3. “It is open and public record and there is no secrecy of immovable property there.” About ARU he stated it is backed by a law.

Farogh Naseem on behalf of federation contended that Justice Qazi Faez did not disclose three properties in UK, while under the tax law he was bound to declare the offshore properties in his wealth returns.

He said that children were minor in 2011 and 2013, the years when properties were purchased in London. He contended that till date no source of spouse income was declared and how the money was transferred from Pakistan to purchase properties in UK.

Justice Baqir asked if there was a concept or theory that government functionaries could bypass law as the ARU had earlier maintained that it obtained information from the FBR. Justice Baqir questioned whether the violation committed in obtaining such information was legitimate.

The court asked from the counsel that he was talking about money laundering, but it was a tax matter. It further said that there was no allegation of corruption but the responsibility on the petitioner to disclose the information of properties held in the name of his spouse and children.

The counsel said that that the federation had shown that the wife and children were dependent. He said that it was a matter of interpretation of section 116 of Income Tax Ordinance, 2001, which said that the taxpayer in his wealth return had to show assets in the name of wife and children if they were dependent.

Farogh argued that FIA report dated 10-05-19 said that Justice Qazi Faez’s  spouse was dual national. Justice Mansoor said that the complainant Abdul Hameed Dogar did not know Justice Qazi Faez’s wife full name is Montesarat Pereira and it was found out by the ARU. Justice Mansoor asked when was this information found out.

Naseem said that the journalists did not disclose their source. The justice said that if these properties were disputed then there was an issue but the petitioner admitted the ownership of the properties.

Justice Sajjad Ali Shah said that the complainant did not even know how to spell Isa. Justice Baqir asked whether anyone checked the credentials of the complainant, which organizations he was associated with. He asked why Dogar’s complaint was given so much importance. He said there were possibilities that he got information from invisible forces as such things often come from them.

 Justice Mansoor asked that was it not proper to send the information directly to the President, instead of the authorities investigated the matter themselves.

Later, the bench deferred hearing till Thursday (today) in this matter.