CJP forms a larger bench against Justice Qazi Faez Isa review petition

ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan, Gulzar Ahmed on Tuesday has constituted a 10 judge larger bench headed by Justice Bandial to hear Justice Qazi Faez Isa review petitions on March 1.

According to the details, the larger bench is formed against June 19, 2020 order wherein the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) was directed to conduct an inquiry about Supreme Court judge family members undeclared assets in the UK.

Justice Maqbool Baqar, Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah and Justice Yahya Afridi are included in the larger bench. Justice Amin-Uddin Khan is also added. However, the majority of judges gave guidelines, explaining how dissenting judges ought to act in a review case.

This comes as the Supreme Court on Monday sent Justice Qazi Faez Isa’s review case to the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Gulzar Ahmed.

SC announced its decision on whether the present six-judge bench or a larger bench would hear a set of petitions seeking review of the court’s majority judgement in Justice Qazi Faez Isa case.

The judgement was announced by Justice Umar Ata Bandial, who was presiding the six-judge bench, who announced the 5-1 majority judgement.

Justice Manzoor Ahmad Malik disagreed and will write a dissenting note.

The review petitions had been moved by Justice Isa, his wife Sarina Isa and different bar councils, calling for the formation of a larger bench instead of a six-judge bench.

“The chief justice can form a larger bench on review petitions if he wants,” said the apex court, adding that normally the bench which delivers the judgement also hears the review petitions.

Justice Umar Ata Bandial said it was mandatory to include the judge who wrote the decision in the review bench and if they were not available, then the judge who agreed with the court order is part of the bench.

A six-judge bench headed by Justice Bandial had reserved the decision in a previous hearing on December 10, 2020. “My understanding of the court rules is that the review petitions are always posted to the same bench,” Sarina Isa had said, asking if the review petition might have been heard after amending these rules.

Justice Bandial had observed that different court rules did not exist independently rather they had to be interpreted harmoniously, stating that under Order 11 of the court rules, it was the chief justice who constituted the bench and which was supposed to be accepted by all. “We will interpret and give a judgement on this,” he had said at the time. Sarina had replied that being the head of the Supreme Judicial Council, the chief justice was a party in the matter.

“No, it is not like this,” Justice Bandial had said, adding that one did not become a party just like that.

This comes as Justice Isa was the subject of a presidential reference that alleged he had acquired three properties in London on lease in the name of his wife and children between 2011 and 2015 but did not disclose them in his wealth returns. Justice Isa contested the allegation, saying he was not a beneficial owner of the flats — either directly or indirectly.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court in June 2020 called the reference invalid.

However, seven of the 10 judges on the bench hearing the case ordered the Inland Revenue Department and the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to seek explanations from the judge’s wife and children on the nature and source of funding for three properties in their names in the United Kingdom and submit a report to the SC registrar.

Justice Isa then approached the apex court, seeking a review of the decision. Bar associations, including the Sindh High Court Bar Association, also filed similar petitions.

A seven-judge bench was constituted by the Supreme Court to hear the petitions but four premier bar associations of the country challenged it in a joint one-page application and requested that the matter be placed before the CJP to form a larger bench comprising all the judges who had decided the constitutional petitions against the filing of the reference.

Sarina Isa too had personally submitted an application to the SC registrar with a request to include all the judges in the full court who had earlier decided her husband’s petition.

Raja Furqan Ahmed

Raja Furqan Ahmed is the News Editor of The Pakistan Daily.

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