Tuesday Apr 20 2021

Sparks fly in Supreme Court as full bench hears Justice Isa's petition

A look at the Supreme Court building. Photo: File

  • Sarina Isa says was not given a fair trial; judged on other standards than Imran Khan was judged in his foreign transactions case.
  • Sarina says report sent to Supreme Judicial Council by FBR on her financial matters was illegal.
  • Justice Isa says will continue fighting for the court, country as the 'last mujahid'.  
  • Case adjourned till Wednesday, Justice Qazi Faez Isa directed to answer questions put forth by the court in tomorrow’s hearing.

ISLAMABAD: Justice Qazi Faez Isa’s wife, Sarina Isa, alleged on Tuesday that the Supreme Court did not set the same standards for her as it did for Prime Minister Imran Khan, thereby violating her right to a fair trial under Article 19 of the Constitution.

The judge’s wife was presenting arguments before a 10-member full bench of the country's top court, which is hearing a review petition filed by Justice Isa against a smaller bench's ruling on the presidential reference brought against him. 

The proceedings were at times terse, at other times emotional as arguments over the constitutionality and legality of the Supreme Court's order vacating a presidential ordinance against Justice Isa was debated. 

At the onset of the hearing, Justice Maqbool Baqar requested Sarina to make her arguments as brief as possible. 

The idea was supported by Justice Mansoor Ali Shah, who asked Justice Isa’s wife to tell the bench what was wrong with the Supreme Courts’ verdict given in the case on June 20, 2020.

Sarina started her arguments by telling the court that the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) did not share with her a the "confidential report” it had sent to the Supreme Judicial Council, despite the bench's order a day earlier to do so.

"My tax matters are deeply personal. Even my husband is not privy to them. The FBR report on my personal tax matters has now been read by all the judges. It is illegal of the FBR to submit a report on my tax matters without my knowledge," she argued. 

Read more: Justice Qazi Faez Isa claims govt wants him removed over Faizabad verdict

“For two years, my life has been a subject for talk shows. My private life was made public by Fawad Chaudhry, Shahzad Akbar, Firdous Ashiq Awan and TV channels,” she complained to the bench. 

"A newspaper published half-truths based on parts of the report that were leaked to it illegally," she alleged.

She added that she had been "killed a thousand times" and urged the bench to not let her go through the pain again.

“My husband was not summoned by the FBR, neither did the Supreme Judicial Council summon me. The FBR’s chairman’s decision to submit the report [in that scenario] is illegal,” she argued.

However, Justice Munib Akhtar remarked that a “confidential report” cannot be submitted to an individual based on an application alone.

At this, Sarina informed the bench that she had not asked for the report to be shared with her, it was the bench itself which asked that it be done so. 

“The Supreme Court’s decision to send me to the FBR was not correct. On June 18, 2020, I submitted my tax details, transfer of funds and all details to the court,” she argued. 

"The court, while issuing the verdict, did not look at my documents correctly," the judge’s wife said.

Read more: Justice Qazi Faez Isa's wife files contempt of court plea against Fawad Chaudhry

“The decision taken on June 19, 2020 is against the orders issued in the Imran Khan vs Hanif Abbasi case,” said Sarina, adding that this violates her rights under Article 19, which ensures the right to a free trial.

"Imran Khan had accepted ownership of an offshore company. He is the prime minister, while I am just a common citizen," she argued. 

Sarina Isa gets upset over questioning

However, Justice Munib Akhtar intervened at this and asked her to look at the statement she gave to the court on June 19 of last year.

He remarked that she was given a chance to speak even then, and the bench could not accept the argument that she was not given a fair hearing. 

Justice Mansoor Ali Shah intervened and asked Sarina to limit her arguments to those regarding the documents she had submitted to the court herself.

At this, Justice Akhtar interjected and asked Sarina to respond to his questions first.

“I asked you a question,” said Justice Akhtar. He noted that in her last hearing, she had asked why the judges do not question her.

Read more: SC rejects Justice Qazi Faez's Isa request to broadcast hearing live

“You wanted to come to court but your husband did not want you to come. You submitted your statement in court voluntarily,” noted Justice Akhtar

“I came to court because of my father,” said Sarina Isa, who became overcome with emotion at the memory of her late father.

At this, Justice Baqar intervened and asked her to sit down. "I think we've heard enough," he said. 

Justice Akhtar too, perhaps taken aback by Sarina's reaction to his line of questioning, apologised and said that he had not meant to upset her.

Sit down on your seat, Justice Bandial tells Justice Qazi Faez Isa

Earlier, while Sarina was presenting her arguments, Justice Bandial observed that the FBR had ignored questions regarding the rent she was getting from a property in the Clifton area of Karachi, as well as the income she got from a school.

“You were not a party in the main case," he observed, addressing Sarina. "You appeared yourself and said you wanted to be part of the case."

At this, Justice Isa stood up from his seat to interject, telling the bench that the observation was contrary to the facts. 

He accused Law Minister Farogh Nasim of making misleading statements in the court in this regard.

"He [Naseem] doesn't come to court any more. It seems he cannot stand in front of the truth. He can only speak about sewing machines and other nonconsequential things," Justice Isa said.

However, the interruption was not taken well by the bench. 

“We cannot allow you to intervene in court proceedings. Please return to your seat,” Justice Bandial snapped. 

Justice Bandial then explained to Sarina that she was appearing before the bench for the first time, which is why the court was examining her arguments.

"I can write down your questions and respond to them in detail later," she offered. 

Read more: CJP forms 10-member, larger bench to hear Justice Qazi Faez Isa's review petition

The judge then posed four questions to the judge’s wife. He asked whether she had opened a fake bank account in another country; whether she had benefited from a trustee account in another country; if the transactions she had shown matched the value of the properties she had purchased abroad; and whether all funds transferred by her had been done through formal banking channels.

"You have to provide details fpr after August 5, 2009 — when your husband became the chief justice of the Balochistan High Court," the judge explained. 

"There is a question mark over two properties after 2009. Before 2009, your husband was not a public office holder. We also know that you were financially well off earlier as well."

"Present your arguments confidently," Justice Maqbool Baqir chipped in. "We are examining any illegalities or unconstitutional angles in the judgement."

Justice Isa questions suo motu notices

Justice Isa, after his wife completed her arguments, told the court that he used to earn Rs3.1 million before he took public office.

He also questioned why, in his case, three "suo motu notices" were taken — one by the Supreme Court, one by the Supreme Judicial Council and one by the FBR. 

He noted that such notices are usually taken on matters of public interest, and wondered why the need was felt for them in his case.

However, Justice Bandial was not swayed by this line of reasoning and asked Justice Isa not to react "emotionally".

"You simply tell us how it was illegal [for the Supreme Court] to send the reference to FBR," Justice Bandial said. 

"Your fundamental argument is that you were not given a fair hearing. If you do not read out the statement you earlier gave to the court, it will give a negative impression," he warned. 

"If the court thinks that the case was heard fairly, then so be it," Justice Isa replied. 

"My wife is not retracting from her statement. If the court does not agree with her, it should go ahead and discard this petition. Tomorrow, your wives may be standing in her place," he added.

However, Justice Munib Akhtar shot back: "We're not here to take lectures on the law from a petitioner [in this court]," he said. 

"We are pained that Sarina Isa was hurt by our questions," Justice Umar Ata Bandial offered. 

"We are of those people who created this country. We are willing to give our lives for it. I'm emotional not for my self, but for the sake of this country," Justice Isa countered. 

“I will be the last mujahid who will keep on fighting for this institution and country.”

Read more: Justice Qazi Faez Isa files petition seeking additional review of June 2020 ruling

At this point, Justice Bandial said that that he too had seen and heard a lot of things while examining the case, but would not react emotionally.

"Every day I [ask God that] I do not make a wrong decision," he said. 

"You said a lot of things here, we heard them — now let go of them. I too can react emotionally, but am keeping myself in check. We have to decide this case according to the record," he said. 

“The affection we feel for you cannot be displayed in court," he said, addressing Justice Isa. "Whatever you want to say to the government, say it out of court.”

The case was subsequently adjourned till Wednesday and Justice Qazi Faez Isa was asked to answer questions presented by the court in the following hearing.