ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court of Pakistan was informed yesterday that the Asset Recovery Unit (ARU) has no legal status, therefore, any investigation or inquiry conducted and any material collected by it for filing a reference against judges is illegal and void abinitio.

A 10-member bench of the Supreme Court headed by Justice Umar Ata Bandial conducted hearing of identical petitions challenging the presidential reference against Justice Qazi Faez Isa for allegedly not disclosing his foreign properties in his wealth statements. 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 I.A. Rehman have also challenged the Presidential Reference against Justice Isa.

During the hearing, Rasheed A Rizvi, appearing on behalf of SHCBA and Karachi Bar Association, submitted, “The ARU has no legal status, therefore, any investigation/inquiry conducted and any material collected by it for filing reference against the judges is illegal, void abinitio and without jurisdiction.”

He said that it is the President or SJC and no one else could enter into this domain to investigate against the judge. He said that the ARU is not part of any Division or Ministry and Rules specified in the Constitution.

He said that President or Prime Minister have to act strictly in accordance with the Constitution. Every step taken by PM or President should be in furtherance to protect and defend the Constitution.

Senator Raza Rabbani, representing the Sindh Bar Council, contended that the entire exercise in terms of investigation and advice to send the reference against Justice Qazi Faez to Supreme Judicial Council is unconstitutional and without jurisdiction, therefore, it should be quashed.

Rabbani said that if the ARU has carried out a full-fledge probe then what would the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) do. He argued that the ARU was not required for the collection of material, but full-fledge inquiry against the citizens. In its terms mentioned that the Unit will procure any evidence. For its assistance the ARU may request any intelligence agencies, law enforcement agencies, FIA, FBR to obtain information on any subject ordered by it.

He said that a letter written to chairman ARU by Farogh Naseem mentioned that the complainant did not have any evidence and the Unit conducted the probe and supplemented it with material evidence.

About the authorization to investigate for information of Justice Qazi Faez’ properties, Raza Rabbani said that it stemmed from the ARU itself. The chairman carried out probe on his own on the advice of Minister of Law [Farogh Naseem].

Justice Mansoor Ali Shah asked who gave the Asset Recovery Unit the authority to investigate against Justice Faez Isa?  He asked which law determined the powers of Special Assistant.

Justice Maqbool Baqar asked, can the prime minister delegate its powers to the Special Assistant?

Raza Rabbani responded that nothing can be said about delegating the powers of the Prime Minister.

After completion of Raza Rabbani’s arguments, Advocate Rasheed A Rizvi counsel for the Karachi Bar Association, started his arguments and stated that if the legal requirements for the investigation were not met, then it could not be processed.

Justice Mansoor Ali Shah said that if the illegally gathered evidence was accepted, then it would open the door forever.

Justice Mansoor questioned whether the ordinary citizens have access to ARU. The SBC counsel said that it depends on which class the citizen belongs to.

Later, the bench deferred the case till January 27 for further proceedings.