The government’s counsel has told the Supreme Court (SC) that the President Arif Alvi and Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan were ready to face the consequences if the presidential reference against SC’s Justice Qazi Faez Isa was quashed.
Dr Farogh Naseem, former law minister and currently the government’s counsel in the case against Justice Isa, submitted before members of the 10-judge full court that it appeared as if the top government functionaries were on trial and not the judge who has yet to explain the source of income for his family members’ properties.
“We are ready to face consequences,” said Dr Naseem, adding that the consequences would be across the board.
Earlier, Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah had observed that the government is also accountable if the reference is not maintainable.
“There should be consequences if the reference is quashed based on malice,” noted another judge, Justice Maqbool Baqar.
Meanwhile, chief judge of the full court, Justice Umar Ata Bandial observed that no bar association has ever complained about Justice Isa being dishonest. None of the government’s allegations prove dishonesty of Justice Isa, he remarked.
The federal counsel maintained that a judge is the most powerful person in society, and therefore, he argued, we must have confidence that the judge is free of controversy. The independence of the judiciary comes through integrity, and there should be good public perception of the judge, added Dr Naseem.
At this, Justice Shah inquired whether the counsel admits that this is a case pertaining to independence of the judiciary.
Justice Shah further asked the federal counsel whether a husband could seek his wife’s tax records from the Federal Board of Revenue. To this, Dr Naseem replied that he would have to ask the relevant officials.
Under which law can the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) ask a judge to disclose details of his wife’s properties, inquired Justice Shah. He observed that the public perception of a judge can also be destroyed on social media.
At this, Dr Naseem said that fake news could not destroy public perception but if a judge is unable to explain the source of his family members’ properties than it would influence his reputation before the public.
Justice Bandial told the federal counsel that instead of relaying a violation of Section 116 of the Income Tax law his main focus is on the issuance of the show cause notice to Justice Isa by the SJC.
With regards to the show cause notice, Justice Maqbool Baqar noted that if the basis of the reference was illegal then all of the proceedings would be quashed.
Referring to various SC judgements, Dr Naseem said that the office of a judge came under the definition of public office and it is mandatory for a public servant that their family members’ lifestyle is not beyond the ostensible source of income. He maintained that his case was about the source of income.
The bench asked Dr Naseem yet again as to why the government did not question Justice Isa’s wife about her source of income for the properties in question. If the wife purchased these properties through inherited income, would the judge be liable to reply, asked Justice Shah.
In the same vein, Justice Yahya Afridi asked whether all judges should be asked about their family members’ tax concerns by the SJC or by tax authorities. To this Dr Naseem said that disciplinary proceedings against a judge could only be initiated by the SJC.