Justice Qazi Faez Isa: The Likely Outcome In The Light Of Recent Past
Lately, the leaders of various lawyers’ organisations said that there were around 350 references pending before the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC). This allegation had come in the backdrop of the references filed against Justice Qazi Faez Isa, suggesting that some conspiracy was being hatched to oust the honourable justice since his reference was being heard prior to other pending ones. Therefore, the SJC via its public relations officer succinctly clarified on June 14 that in fact, only 28 references were pending including the ones filed against the honourable justice.
So is the notion that a stratagem is being devised against the honourable justice true or just a myth? This is a million dollar question and requires a deep probe.
The SJC claims that out of the 426 complaints, 398 had been disposed of. Out of the 398 complaints that were disposed of only one resulted in the dismissal of a judge, Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui. It is not to suggest that the 397 other judges should have been removed too, though it does raise eyebrows that only one complaint was dealt with, done and dusted well in time.
Many complaints have become infructuous; that is to say that they cannot be heard as the judges against whom those complaints were made have now retired. Again the question, why were these complaints not heard as swiftly as the ones against Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Justice KK Agha of Sindh High Court? And now that the complaints have become infructuous, what if some of those complaints were very genuine, should they not have been heard in time so that the accountability which is being much boasted these days could have been held once and for all? If anything, should they not be heard today in the interests of justice with at least some symbolic punishment for the culprit judges? What law distinguishes them from the rest? They say these days that no one can be absolved from accountability, but why some are?
In one of my previous writings, I had stated as to how Nawaz Sharif’s return from the UK despite a conviction against him and despite that he could have easily claimed a political asylum in UK has made it difficult to uproot him. Ousting him would have been easier had he not come back at all. Likewise, Justice Isa’s steadfastness despite that many amongst this nation already view him as a wrongdoer as a result of the media trial against him has made it and will continue to make it difficult to unseat him.
In a country like Pakistan, you will never let an opportunity vanish to get rid of the authorities even if you are innocent. Rarely would people be willing to risk it till the end and hope for the justice. So if you do come under the radar, the first thing you would look to will be to settle the issue. The reason for that is the uncertainty that follows not only in the judicial system and also in the otherwise unforeseeable incidents which we often encounter. For that reason, whenever a complaint is made against a judge, he prefers to retire peacefully because at that very moment that is the best option for him even if he is innocent and especially when he is guilty.
But not all of us look for bed of roses, some want Ferrari yet others want to climb a mountain, even if it may mean risking everything. That being so, the fact that Justice Faez Isa, Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui and Justice KK Agha never resorted to amicably settle their issues is a half evidence to make a preliminary conclusion that they are innocent and not guilty of the malfeasance they have been alleged with. It is rather some other crimes they seem to be guilty of, which are unrecognized in law but fairly recognised under the umbrella of national security.
The SJC recently quashed one of the two references against Justice Faez Isa. The reference came as a result of an application alleging that the Justice had been guilty of misconduct by writing three letters to the President of Pakistan and then deliberately leaking it to the media. The SJC dismissed the petition on grounds that no evidence was produced in order to substantiate the allegations and concluded that the letters written to the President were not, in the view of the SJC, serious enough to constitute misconduct sufficient for his removal.
However, doubts are being raised as to the fairness of the proceedings due to the sequence of events and considering the remarks made by the SJC about Justice Faez Isa despite the decision in his favour.
Some quarters believe that one reference was quashed in order to balance out the other reference which it is believed will be held against the justice. This perception that the Supreme Court rather than providing justice is into a balancing exercise is unfortunate to say the least, as false it may be.
Many PTI members genuinely believe that Jehangir Tareen was disqualified in order to balance Nawaz Sharif’s disqualification. This is not unsubstantiated but rather was affirmed by Abrar-ul-Haq during a question answer session with Waseem Badami. These perceptions are not out rightly unfounded, the actions of authorities are quite a testament. What was the need to dispose of one reference before the other? Why not dispose them of the same day? Why give rise to doubts in the first place? Some may remember that the verdict convicting Hanif Abbasi for life was given at 11 PM, why?
Regardless of what everyone else believes, Justice Faez Isa is not giving up. The honourable justice on August 26 challenged the already dismissed reference against him before the Supreme Court to the extent of remarks made against him, which he finds vilifying.
An excerpt from the petition is hereby reproduced: “The council’s order states that the petitioner selectively reveals the truth, discloses without permission a private conversation, pretends ignorance about matters known to him, acts in bad taste, employees distasteful methods, unnecessarily dragging the prime minister and his different spouses and children into the matter, is presumptive, may have a sense of persecution, a sense of hounding, might have overstepped the sense of propriety, stress might have aggravated his sense of harassment and might have contributed towards outrunning of his discretion.”
In addition, the justice has further alleged that the SJC members are not competent to hear the other reference pertaining to properties in the UK for the apparent bias entailing from the said order.
Justice Faez Isa has definitely been wronged to say the least. This is not the first time he is being vindicated. And on every occasion, he has stood up for himself, something which is hard to do in Pakistan. From what has transpired over the last few years, the attitude displayed by the former CJP, the dismissal of Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui without any follow-up on allegations made by him that he was being threatened or maligned by the intelligence agencies, the fact that one reference against Justice Faez Isa has been quashed with the other undecided and that too in a fairly indistinct language; all this indicates that the honourable justice may not be spared after all.
This quest will not only bring disrepute to the justice system but will also eventually throw millions of lawyers and thousands of judges out of business. It is hard to ignore the impression that the only crime Justice Faez Isa has committed is that he is not subjugated. For any institution to survive in the modern world, its fundamentals have to be strong, especially of the justice system. And the very core of justice system depends on the quality and independence of the judiciary it possesses.
In my view, if there is a conspiracy at all, it is not to oust Justice Faez Isa but rather to break him emotionally, which he might even if he successfully survives the other reference pending against him. The best way to break a man is to ridicule him so that he is not left with enough reasons to keep fighting. Had it been any other judge he would have most likely given up by now.
Legally speaking, the reference pertaining to the properties in the name of his wife and children is weak. There will be many government officials, judges, justices of higher courts whose family may have properties in their names and as such may not have been disclosed. It is not a requirement of the law to disclose the properties in the name of one’s wife or children as long as they are not yours.
The axing of Justice Faez Isa has more to do with the regime change in which every individual who is hampering the process is being neutralized in the most meticulous of ways. The scandal involving the NAB chairman and the arrests that followed, the consistent watch over the trial court by the Supreme Court in the case of Nawaz Sharif only, the order for suspension of recounting of votes in NA-131 by the former CJP where Imran Khan apparently won against Khawaja Saad Rafique, lampooning against certain journalists and many other such incidences reveal a pattern. Accordingly, the reaction is also likely to be variegated just like the pattern, not just of the lawyers but of the people too, depending on the eventualities.