ISLAMABAD    -   Two Supreme Court judges Justice Sardar Tariq Masood and Justice Ijazul Ahsan on Tuesday recused from a seven-member larger bench, hearing petitions, challenging presidential references, filed against SC judge Justice Qazi Faez Isa.

Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa had formed a seven-member larger bench, headed by Justice Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Maqbool Baqar, Justice Manzoor Ahmad Malik, Justice Sardar Tariq Masood, Justice Faisal Arab, Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel to hear the petition filed by Justice Isa on Aug 26, seeking formation of a full court bench.

During the course of proceedings, Muneer A Malik counsel for Justice Qazi Faez Isa said that two judges had a direct interest in the case against Justice Isa.

He said that any judge who had a personal stake in this case, should not be attached with it. At this, Justice Bandial asked which judge can be biased? Muneer Malik responded that he was not alleging that any judge was biased.

Justice Bandial remarked that he wanted to assure that no judge of this court was biased as every judge of this court performed his duty in accordance with law and the Constitution. None of the judges of this court have an interest in this case, he added.

He asked the counsel to further argue over the issue. Muneer Malik replied that judges who were to become chief justice in future, have a personal interest. He said two judges, who were part of this bench, will potentially become chief justice in future and those two judges had a direct interest.

He said, “As per code of conduct, a judge should not hear a case, if he has direct interest. I raise this argument to protect the institution.” Malik referenced precedents set by Justice (retd) Ajmal Mian and Justice Falak Shair who recused themselves from hearing similar cases in the past.

Justice Umar Ata Bandial remarked that none of the judges was partial or biased and should not be treated as harbouring biases or self-interests.

He remarked that a judge had the authority to step away from a bench and there were court verdicts which said that no judge could be forced to distance himself from a case.

Announcing his recusal, Justice Ijazul Ahsan said the reservations against him were unfortunate and not justified but he was recusing himself to maintain the highest standard of fairness.

Justice Ahsan noted that he was obligated by oath to do right to all manner of people according to law without fear or favour and affection”. “I will not allow personal interest to influence my official conduct or my official decisions,” he said. “I have no doubt in my mind that I can uphold the Oath of my office and the high ideals this office represents.”

Justice Sardar Tariq Masood remarked that he had decided not to hear the case before Justice Isa requested his recusal.

Later, Justice Umar Ata Bandial remarked that some judges did not want to be part of the bench anymore and therefore, the matter will be sent to the chief justice and he will decide if a new bench should be formed or not.