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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Pakistan’s Supreme Court Nullifies Presidential Reference Against Top Judge

10-member bench declared the reference 'null & void', accepted Justice Qazi Faez Essa's plea

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Umar Zaidi
Umar Zaidi
Writer is a broadcast journalist/political analyst. He writes on Twitter as _journo.

Pakistan, Islamabad – Supreme Court of Pakistan quashed President Arif Alvi’s reference against a senior judge of the SC Justice Qazi Faiz Essa, here on Friday. The bench consisted of 10 judges headed by Justice Umar Atta Bandial turned down government’s reference and has considered Justice Essa’s petition.

The Presidential reference was filed in May 2019 against top SC judge Justice Qazi Faiz Essa alleged that he acquired properties on lease in London between 2011 and 2015 in the names of his wife and children but didn’t mention any of those in his wealth returns. However, Justice Essa, in his plea rebuffed the claim, adding that he was not the beneficial owner of those properties, let alone directly or indirectly. He also asserted that some authorities trying to unseat him by force and he would not give up. He put on an account that the government had obtained his and his family’s information through the help of FIA and other federal and military agencies, violated articles 4 and 14 of the constitution of Pakistan.

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Justice Essa pleaded to the Supreme Court that the formation of the Asset Recovery Unit by the government to probe his and his family’s wealth and properties should be declared null and void. Also, he said the inquiry should come to an end as it was illegal and the sole purpose was to undermine his constitutional position. Justice Essa’s wife recorded her statement before the bench via video link while the petitioner also appeared himself before the panel which itself is an unprecedented event. Never been in Pakistan a judge facing a reference by the President appeared before the trial court.

The premier court, in its brief decision, concluded that the reference did not hold any legal grounds hence rejected. However, the bench directed the Federal Board of Revenue to notify the wife and children of Justice Essa asking them to provide the source of funds through which the three properties in London had been bought. The bench also directed the stakeholders to cooperate with the commissioner of the Federal Board of Revenue regardless of everything. The full-court bench consisted of Justice Maqbool Baqar, Justice Manzoor A. Malik, Justice Faisal Arab, Justice Mazhar Alam Khan, Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, Justice Mansoor Ali Shah, Justice Muneeb Akhtar, Justice Yahya Afridi, and Justice Qazi Amin Ahmad.

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On the other hand, the Government of Pakistan welcomed the decision of the Premier court terming it as ‘A wise one’. Federal Minister for Information & Broadcasting Senator Shibli Faraz and Prime Minister’s special assistant for Accountability Barrister Shehzad Akbar in their press conference in Islamabad said that the verdict would set an example for the government and the judiciary incoming futures. Barrister Akbar added that our stance was to only make sure that the decision is not against the government and each institution of the country has full rights to exercise their constitutional powers.

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