A nine-member Supreme Court bench on Tuesday adjourned the hearing of Justice Qazi Faez Isa’s petition, against a presidential reference, until October 8 and directed Additional Attorney General Amir Rehman to submit a response on the judge’s appeal.

Justice Umar Ata Bandial, who was heading the bench, pointed out that Justice Mansoor Ali Shah — who is a member of the bench — could not attend the proceedings as he was on leave. He also noted that Justice Isa’s lawyer Muneer A. Malik was ill and had submitted a request in the court to adjourn the hearing earlier. The request was declined.

During the proceedings today, the bench said that the court will issue notices to all parties including the attorney general’s office. Rehman assured the bench that a written response will be submitted in the next hearing.

Justice Faisal Arab, who was part of the bench, said: “It will be better if you (Rehman) submit your response a week before the next hearing.”

Justice Bandial remarked that the court “will not leave [the case] in pending for a long period of time”.

“This is a matter of our fellow judge,” Justice Bandial said. “We will do whatever is in accordance with the law and Constitution.”

Justice Munib Akhtar, another member of the bench, said that all parties should “convince the court over the exemption granted to the prime minister and president under Article 248”.

The apex court had resumed hearing on a set of challenges to the presidential reference against Justice Isa after it constituted a 10-judge bench last week.

Headed by Justice Bandial, the bench consists of Justice Maqbool Baqar, Justice Manzoor Ahmad Malik, Justice Arab, Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel, Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, in case the judge is available, Justice 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.

Justice Isa’s petition
Justice Isa — who is currently facing a misconduct reference filed by the president against him in the Supreme Judicial Council — in his application seeking formation of a full court had argued that the full court was necessary because the present matter pertained to a reference against the apex court judge and as per the precedent established in the 2010 SC judge in the Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry case.

In support of his argument, Justice Isa contended that the SJC “expressed bias” against him in its verdict on Reference 427 (a second petition) and has therefore lost its credibility to give him a fair hearing.

In his application, Justice Isa had said he was ready to face any reference if conducted in accordance with the law and propriety, but regretted that he, his wife and children had allegedly been subjected to persecution when the Holy Quran stated that persecution was worse than death. The application had contended that the petitioner’s wife and adult children were illegally surveilled through intelligence apparatus and by misusing public funds.

Personal data, records and documents of the judge’s wife and adult children were probed, examined, scrutinised and analysed, including the confidential record maintained by Nadra, FIA, Passport and Immigration Office, FBR and the interior ministry, the application had contended. Then the harvested mismatched information and documents were used to paint half-truths and put together a false reference by launching insidious attack against the judge, it alleged.

The application also mentioned in detail the judge’s two meetings with the chief justice and said he did not raise these issues merely for the enforcement of his fundamental rights but also because “something far more sinister was afoot” — the very destruction of the independence of the judiciary at the hands of an executive which had overstepped the prescribed constitutional boundaries.

The petition requested the Supreme Court to dismiss the presidential reference on the sole ground of the complainant’s failure to establish the allegations made against the judge as found by the council.