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PM Shehbaz orders withdrawal of reference against Justice Isa

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday ordered Law Minister Azam Nazir Tarar to drop the curative review reference filed against Judge Qazi Faez Isa of the Supreme Court.

The federal cabinet has previously made a decision in this regard last year.

The curative review was “meant to harass and frighten the Honorable Court at the behest of Imran Niazi,” the PM claimed in a tweet today.

Separately, PM Shehbaz said that Justice Isa and his family were “harassed and defamed” in the name of the reference in a statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) today.

The statement reported the PM as saying, “This was not a reference, but a vendetta by Imran Khan Niazi, a vindictive person, against a fair-minded judge who followed the route of the Constitution and the law.”

Recalling that the PML-N and associated parties had denounced the action even while they were in opposition, he underlined that the reference was an evil plot to undermine the independence of the court.

President Arif Alvi turned into a tool in the attack on the judiciary and a collaborator in a lie as a result of Imran Niazi’s misuse of the constitutional office of the president for this criminal crime.

The Pakistan Bar Council (PBC), among other legal organizations across the nation, also expressed opposition to the reference in the PMO statement, saying that their views were appreciated.

The day before, Justice Isa, who will take over as chief justice in September, made headlines for a ruling he co-authored with Justice Aminuddin Khan of the Supreme Court, according to which the chief justice of Pakistan lacks the authority to create special benches or choose their members. They said that until they are addressed by legislation, proceedings based on suo motu notifications and cases of constitutional significance under Article 184(3) should be postponed.

The five-member bench was disbanded as a result of Judge Khan’s decision to recuse himself from the Supreme Court’s hearing of the election delay case. Justice Khan cited the decision as his justification.

Justice Isa’s legal struggle

PTI government filed a reference against Justice Isa in May 2019 alleging that he obtained three properties in London on a lease between 2011 and 2015 in the names of his wife and children but failed to disclose them in his wealth returns. Justice Isa is set to become the chief justice on September 18, 2023, for a 13-month term. Judge Isa refuted the claim, claiming he is not a direct nor an indirect beneficial owner of the apartments.

A 10-member SC court dismissed the president’s reference against Justice Isa on June 19, 2020, and labeled it “illegal.” The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and the Inland Revenue Department were however ordered by seven out of the ten judges on the bench to ask the judge’s wife and children for an explanation of the nature and source of funding for three properties registered in their names in the United Kingdom and to submit a report to the SC registrar.

Later in 2021, Justice Isa prevailed in a case that overturned the SC’s aforementioned directive, rendering the entire exercise carried out by the FBR invalid.

However, PTI administration had launched a curative review, which was still ongoing before the Supreme Court, even when the reference was ultimately dismissed in the second round, i.e., the review petition by Judge Isa.

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