| By 7-3 majority judgement SC refers case to FBR | Report due in 60 days back to SJC | Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Manzoor Ahmad Malik, Justice Faisal Arab, Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel, Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, Justice Munib Akhtar and Justice Qazi Muhammad Amin Ahmed referred tax matter | Justice Maqbool Baqar, Justice Mansoor Ali Shah and Justice Yahya Afridi did not agree

ISLAMABAD        -      The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Friday quashed the Presidential Reference and closed the show cause proceedings against Justice Qazi Faez Isa in the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC).

A ten-member bench of the apex court, headed by Justice Umar Ata Bandial, conducted hearing of identical petitions challenging the 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 Abid Hassan Minto, and IA Rehman have also challenged the Presidential Reference against Justice Qazi Faez Isa.

In the morning the bench heard the petitioner’s as well as the bar association’s counsels and reserved the verdict which was announced later at 4:10 pm.

In its unanimous order, the bench said, “reference No. 1 of 2019 is declared to be of no legal effect whatsoever and stands quashed, and in consequence thereof the proceedings pending in the Supreme Judicial Council (“Council”) against the Petitioner in CP 17/2019 (including the show-cause notice dated 17.07.2019 issued to him) stand abated.”

However, seven judges, including Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Manzoor Ahmad Malik, Justice Faisal Arab, Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel, Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, Justice Munib Akhtar and Justice Qazi Muhammad Amin Ahmed, referred the tax matter of Justice Qazi Faez to the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) while three judges, including Justice Maqbool Baqar, Justice Mansoor Ali Shah and Justice Yahya Afridi, did not agree with the majority on this point.

According to majority decision, within 7 days of this Order, the concerned Commissioner of Inland Revenue shall himself (and not some other officer exercising delegated powers) issue appropriate notices under the Income Tax Ordinance, 2001 to the spouse and children of Justice Qazi Faez (respondents) to offer an explanation regarding the nature and source of the funds (separately for each property) whereby the three properties in the United Kingdom (viz., No. 40, Oakdale Road, London E11 4DL; No. 90, Adelaide Road, London E10 5NW; and No. 50, Coniston Court, Kendal Street, London W2 2AN) that are in the names of the spouse and the children were acquired.

It added that the Commissioner Inland Revenue having jurisdiction over the spouse of the Petitioner (who must be a Commissioner exercising jurisdiction and performing functions at Islamabad) shall be deemed also to be the Commissioner having jurisdiction over the children.

“The respondents shall furnish their replies to the notices along with such material and record as is deemed appropriate. In case any of them is outside the country, it shall be the responsibility of such person to timely file a response, and the proceedings before the Commissioner shall not be adjourned or delayed for the reason of non-availability in Pakistan of such person,” added the order.

The order maintained that the proceedings shall be concluded before the Commissioner within 60 days of the date of receipt of the notices as aforesaid, and the order shall be issued by him within 75 days of the said date of receipt, and no adjournment or extension in time whatsoever shall be given as affects or extends the aforesaid periods.

It said that within 7 days of the issuance of the order by the Commissioner, the Chairman FBR shall submit a report (to be personally signed by him) to the Council through its Secretary (i.e., the Registrar of the Supreme Court) regarding the proceedings.

The minority order said, “The independence of judiciary shall be fully secured. The same Constitution also ordains that to enjoy the protection of law and to be treated in accordance with law is the inalienable right of every citizen.”

They reiterated that in our constitutional democracy, neither the petitioner judge, nor any other judge, or any individual or any institution, is above the law. The doors of the constitutional forum i.e., Supreme Judicial Council are always open, either on its own motion or for anyone who has a genuine and a bonafide grievance, amenable to the jurisdiction of the Council against a Judge of the Constitutional Court.

They said that however, a Judge like any other citizen of Pakistan enjoys the inalienable constitutional right to be treated in accordance with law. These fundamental values are to be protected at all cost in order to uphold the majesty and supremacy of the Constitution and to honour the people of Pakistan who have adopted and given to themselves this Constitution.