SC dismisses all review pleas against Panama case verdict

 
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Nawaz Sharif’s disqualification maintained

ISLAMABAD Sept. 15 (TNS): The five-member bench of the Supreme Court dismissed all review pleas against the Panama case decision on Friday, after the petitioners’ counsels wrapped up their arguments earlier.

The review petitions had been filed by the Sharif family and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar against the Supreme Court’s judgment in the Panama Papers case.

Presenting his arguments earlier, Sharif children’s counsel Salman Akram Raja said that Capt (retd) Safdar has nothing to do with the London flats [owned by the Sharif family].

Safdar is the son-in-law of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and an elected lawmaker.

The bench is headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and comprises Justice Gulzar Ahmed, Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed and Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan — who along with the latter two headed the special implementation bench in the Panama case that oversaw the work of the Joint Investigation Team.

Raja was referring to the court’s order in the Panama case directing inclusion of Safdar’s name in the corruption reference against the Sharif family regarding their London properties.

In response, Justice Khosa remarked that Safdar definitely has some connection with the London flats.

Raja said he agrees with the arguments presented by Nawaz’s counsel Khawaja Harris in the past two days regarding the appointment of a monitoring judge and the JIT’s work.

In response to the bench’s observation that Safdar’s signatures are present on the trust deed for the flats, Raja said he signed the document as a witness.

“There should’ve been an inquiry, why did you order a NAB reference,” he added.

Safdar’s basic rights will be hurt if a reference is filed in the accountability court, Raja said further.

Justice Khosa observed that Maryam had disowned the London flats before but the JIT report revealed she’s the owner.

Justice Ejaz also stated that the British Virgin Islands confirmed that Maryam is the owner and that it is incorrect that Safdar is aloof from the entire matter.

In response to Raja’s argument that the trial court may be affected by the court’s observations, Justice Azmat remarked that yesterday the bench assured that no observation of theirs will affect trial proceedings. “There will be no compromise on a fair trial,” he observed further.

Justice Ejaz observed that the trial court will decide the case on the basis of evidence.

“Let the matter be investigated,” observed Justice Khosa, saying further that the judges were very careful in writing the Panama Papers case judgment.

Raja then concluded his arguments following which Shiekh Rasheed’s petition regarding reopening of the Hudaibiya Paper Mills case was taken up.

Rasheed’s petition was concluded after the NAB prosecutor general gave an assurance that the bureau will file the appeal in the Hudaibiya case within seven days.

Speaking to the media outside the court before the trial commenced, Rasheed said today is an “important day in Pakistan’s political history”.

On Wednesday and Thursday, Nawaz’s counsel, Harris presented his arguments. Also on Thursday, Dar’s counsel Shahid Hamid completed his arguments.

Making his case before the bench on Thursday, Harris argued that Nawaz never claimed to have received any salary from FZE Capital — a UAE-based company owned by the Sharif family.

He added that a proper trial is needed for a lawmaker’s disqualification, saying that if just his election was termed void then Nawaz would only have been barred for one term.

However, the bench observed on Thursday that documents submitted in court during the Panama Papers case proved that Nawaz received a salary from the UAE-based company in August 2013.

In his arguments on Thursday, Dar’s counsel, Hamid, claimed his client’s assets did not grow overnight but in fact expanded over a period of 15 years.

He also argued that the court needs to set boundaries of its jurisdiction, to which the bench responded that the boundaries are set from case to case.

The Supreme Court decided on Tuesday the Sharifs’ plea [submitted on Monday] that a five-judge bench is formed to hear the review petitions against the Panama Papers case verdict instead of an already-formed three-member bench.

During the hearing of the plea by the Sharifs for the formation of a larger bench on Tuesday, the Sharif children’s counsel pleaded the three-member bench of the apex court, headed by Justice Ejaz and comprising Justice Azmat and Justice Ahsan, to form a five-member bench to hear their review petitions.

He also pleaded that their review petition against the judgment of the five-member bench is taken up first.

Justice Ejaz observed that the three-judge bench gave the majority verdict in the Panama Papers case and that the decision would not have been different had the three-judge bench given a verdict in the case.

However, the bench accepted Raja’s plea and sent to the chief justice a request seeking the formation of a five-judge bench, which was notified later in the day.

On August 15, the former prime minister filed three petitions in the Supreme Court to review the Panama Papers verdict which resulted in his disqualification.

The petitions pleaded the apex court to dismiss the petitions filed by Sheikh Rasheed, Imran Khan and Siraj-ul-Haq.

The former prime minister, through his petition, argued that the decision passed by the court on July 28 should have been passed by a three-member bench as Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and Justice Gulzar Ahmed’s jurisdiction had expired after their dissenting judgment on April 20.

“That by signing the Final Order of the Court dated 28.07.2017, the hon’ble two Members of the “Bench” have actually passed two final Judgments in the same case, which is unprecedented in judicial history,” said the appeal filed.

The petitions also called the commendations and appreciations of the JIT “a gross transgression” of the former prime minister’s right to a fair trial.

The former premier has also filed a request before the apex court to issue a stay order on the implementation of the Supreme Court verdict.

On August 21, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar filed a review petition against the Panama Papers case verdict.

Dar’s petition was filed by lawyers Shahid Hamid and Dr Tariq Hasan, who requested the apex court to null and void it’s July 28 decision and to halt the NAB references against Dar till the verdict on the review petition.

In the nine-page review petition, Dar objected on the working of Panama case JIT, stating “the JIT self-evidently exceeded its mandate by opining on whether or not Petitioner’s assets were disproportionate to his known source of income and this august Court has regrettably erred in law…. in passing a NAB reference against the petitioner on the basis of a JIT report that was way beyond its mandate.”

The finance minister in his appeal also mentioned that Article 184 (3) of the Constitution cannot be used to usurp basic human rights of an individual, further adding that a three-member bench heard the Panama case after the submission of the JIT report, but the final decision was given by a five-member bench.

Dar also said that the appointment of a judge to monitor NAB’s proceedings will affect the trial proceedings.

On August 25, Nawaz’s children and son-in-law also challenged the apex court’s July 28 verdict.

One review petition was filed against the three-judge decision and another against the five-judge decision of the apex court.

There is no accusation or evidence against Safdar, Nawaz’s son-in-law, regarding the purchase of the Sharifs’ London properties but still NAB was ordered to file a reference against him, the petition claimed.

It said further that the posting of a monitoring judge to oversee implementation of the verdict is against the law, explaining that the accountability court cannot operate independently after the appointment of an implementation judge.

The petitioners claim that their basic rights have been infringed upon as their objections to the JIT’s final probe report were not taken into consideration. Moreover, it is stated that the JIT investigation was incomplete and thus cannot be used as a basis for filing a NAB reference.

It has been argued in the review petition that the original five-member bench could not have delivered the final verdict as two judges from that bench were no longer part of the proceedings since the JIT’s work was overseen by the special three-member implementation bench.

Nawaz was disqualified under Article 62 (1)(f) of the Constitution by the Supreme Court on July 28.

Announcing its verdict in the high-profile case, the five-member bench had unanimously disqualified Nawaz for failing to disclose his un-withdrawn receivables constituting assets from UAE-based Capital FZE in his nominations papers for the 2013 General Election, stating that this meant he was not ‘honest’ and ‘truthful’, as per the Constitution.

In the verdict, all five judges ruled to send references against Nawaz Sharif, his children, son-in-law and Dar to an accountability court.

The court also ordered the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to file a reference against the accused in an accountability court in six weeks and directed for the trial to be wrapped up within six months.

The NAB, as per the directives, has filed the references in the accountability court of Islamabad.