Justice Isa’s counsel again seeks adjournment of SC hearing – Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: A day before the scheduled hearing of challenges to the presidential reference against Justice Qazi Faez Isa, a second application for adjournment of the case was filed on behalf of lead counsel Muneer A. Malik on Monday.

The Supreme Court had constituted a 10-judge bench last week to resume hearing on a set of challenges to the presidential reference against Justice Isa. The hearing will begin on Tuesday (today).

Headed by Justice Umar Ata Bandial, the bench consists of Justice Maqbool Baqar, Justice Manzoor Ahmad Malik, Justice Faisal Arab, Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel, Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah in case the judge is available, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Yahya Afridi and Justice Qazi Muhammad Amin.

The apex court is seized with nine petitions moved by Justice Isa, the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC), Abid Hasan Minto, Abdul Basit, who heads the High Court Bar Association, Quetta, Muhammad Asif Reki, the President of Quetta Bar Association, the Sindh High Court Bar Association, the Balochistan Bar Council and the Sindh Bar Council.

An application was filed by Advocate Malik on Sept 19 with a request to approve his plea for general adjournment from Sept 23 to Oct 4. But the Supreme Court office informed him that though his application had been allowed by Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, the adjournment will not apply to Sept 24, the day when the reference is taken up by the 10-judge full court.

Another application was filed by Advocate-on-Record Mohammad Kassim Mirjet on Monday to inform the court that Advocate Malik had suffered a heart attack on Sept 18. Two stents were implanted in his arteries, the application said, adding that doctors had advised him two weeks of complete rest.

Moreover, the single-page application said, the chief justice had accordingly approved Advocate Malik’s request for a 12-day general adjournment.

The applicant conceded that the grant of general adjournment does not cover court cases before the larger bench, but prayed to the court to consider postponing the case because of the medical circumstances.

Even otherwise, the application recalled, the apex court had earlier ordered constitution of the full court to hear the set of challenges and other connected matters, but now the applicant has learnt that one of the judges, Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah who was also part of the larger bench, was not available to join the full court.

The reason, the application said, was the absence of Justice Shah from Pakistan till Oct 28. Therefore, adjournment of the matter till the judge’s return home will be in order.

The fresh application is likely to be taken up by the full court when the hearing starts.

Meanwhile, the number of challenges to the reference against Justice Isa rose to 10 after Hafiz Abdul Rehman a former vice chairman of the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC), submitted a similar application through his counsel, Taufiq Asif.

The petitioner expressed an apprehension that the ouster of Justice Isa, who authored the Feb 6 judgement against the Nov 2017 Faizabad Dharna (sit-in) by the Tehrik Labaik Pakistan (TLP), would preclude him from hearing a set of review petitions against the verdict.

The petition contended that the Faizabad verdict had created a furore among political circles in view of remarks that security agencies should stay within their constitutional remit.

The petition pleaded before the court to declare that the presidential reference against Justice Isa was filed for “collateral purposes” and mala fide in law and discriminatory.

He also requested the apex court to restrain the SJC from further proceedings with a direction to amend SJC Procedure of Enquiry for ensuring greater transparency in the working of the council.

The petition contended that the code of conduct for judges cannot be interpreted in a manner to completely curtail their rights under Article 19 and 19-A of the constitution.

The petitioner asked the apex court to declare that SJC was not competent to declare that an asset which was otherwise in the name of an individual was benami without making that individual a party to the proceedings.

Published in Dawn, September 24th, 2019

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