Justice Qazi Faez Isa reference: A timeline

The presidential reference has been quashed
Jun 19, 2020
Former chief justice Nasirul Mulk (left) administers oath to Justice Qazi Faez Isa (right) as a judge of the Supreme Court on September 5, 2014. Photo: Online
Former chief justice Nasirul Mulk (left) administers oath to Justice Qazi Faez Isa (right) as a judge of the Supreme Court on September 5, 2014. Photo: Online

The Supreme Court declared the presidential reference against Justice Qazi Faez Isa to be null and void.

He was accused of failing to disclose his family's properties in his wealth statement. A 10-member full court announced the verdict on Friday after conducting 41 hearings.

Here is how the case unfolded.

May 28, 2019

Reports emerge on social media and TV channels that President Arif Alvi has filed a reference against Justice Qazi Faez Isa.

May 29, 2019

Zahid F Ebrahim resigns as the additional attorney-general of Pakistan. He calls it a “reckless attempt to tar the reputation of independent individuals and browbeat the judiciary of Pakistan.” He also tweets his resignation letter.

May 30, 2019

The Sindh High Court Bar Association condemns the reference. The association says that it is a “malicious” attempt aimed at “undermining the independence of the judiciary and rule of law”.

June 1, 2019

PEMRA serves show-cause notices to 14 news channels for commenting on the references filed in the Supreme Judicial Council.

June 2, 2019

The government confirms that two references have been filed in the Supreme Judicial Council against three judges for owning foreign assets.

The Asset Recovery Unit forwarded the complaint to the law and justice ministry. The Asset Recovery Unit verified it and received “certified copies from the land registries of the relevant assets, which were duly attested by the High Commission of Pakistan in the UK and notarized in London”.

The information was shared with the Supreme Judicial Council and two references were filed, the statement said.

June 14, 2019

The Supreme Judicial Council starts hearing the reference against Justice Qazi Faez Isa. It lasts for one hour and 45 minutes.

July 2, 2019

The council holds a second hearing of the reference. Neither the attorney-general nor the accused judge appear before the council. The hearing lasts for just 10 minutes.  

July 13, 2019

The Supreme Judicial Council decides to proceed against Sindh High Court's Justice KK Agha, and Justice Isa for allegedly not disclosing their foreign properties in their wealth statements.

Attorney-General Anwar Mansoor Khan submits documents on their alleged misconduct.

July 16, 2019

Justice Isa requests the Supreme Judicial Council to make his reply public and share the evidence on the basis of which a show-cause notice was issued to him.

July 18, 2019

The council issues another show-cause notice to the judge for writing letters to President Alvi asking about the presidential reference filed against him.

Waheed Shahzad Butt, a lawyer from Lahore, had filed a complaint against Justice Isa.

August 7, 2019

Justice Isa challenges the reference against him in the Supreme Court and requests the top court to issue a restraining order against Supreme Judicial Council proceedings till the court decides on his petition.

He also challenges another reference filed by the Lahore-based lawyer claiming that he had violated the code of conduct by “writing letters to the president of Pakistan and sharing it with the media”.

August 10, 2019

The Supreme Judicial Council charges Justice Isa for making “insinuations against state institutions”.

August 16, 2019

The Supreme Court Bar Association challenges the references and says that they have been filed because of the judge’s verdict in the Faizabad dharna case.

The “references are primarily motivated by his authorship of the Faizabad judgment [that] have aroused great resentment on part of the ruling parties and within the visible and invisible branches of the government,” it says.

August 19, 2019

The Supreme Judicial Council dismisses the reference against Justice Isa for writing letters to President Alvi.

The Council writes in its order that the “private letters” written to the president by Justice Isa “ha[d] not been found by us to be serious or grave enough to constitute misconduct sufficient for his removal from the exalted office of a Judge of the Supreme Court of Pakistan”.

September 12, 2019

Former chief justice Asif Saeed Khosa forms a seven-judge Supreme Court bench to hear Justice Isa’s petition against the reference.

Justice Umar Ata Bandial is chosen as the presiding judge.

Other members include Justice Maqbool Baqar, Justice Manzoor Ahmad Malik, Justice Sardar Tariq Masood, Justice Faisal Arab, Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel.

September 16, 2019

Justice Isa requests the Supreme Court to form a full court bench comprising all eligible judges to hear his petition.

September 17, 2019

Two Supreme Court judges recuse themselves from the case hearing.

Justice Isa’s lawyer, Munir A Malik, files a petition seeking the recusal of Justice Ahsan and Justice Tariq.

He said that they have raised reservations for the protection of the judiciary. It was reported that the two members were likely to benefit from the removal of the judge, adding that one will serve as chief justice for six months, while the other judge’s tenure as CJ will be extended.

September 18, 2019

It is decided that a full court bench will hear the case.

“In the circumstances, to further promote transparency in the proceedings and confidence of all persons interested in these proceedings, it is directed that a full court may be constituted in these connected matters,” read an order.

September 25, 2019

The Supreme Court accepts Justice Isa’s petition challenging the presidential reference against him for initial hearing.

The court issues notices to all parties in the case, including President Alvi, Prime Minister Imran Khan and Federal Law Minister Farogh Naseem, seeking their response. A notice was also issued to the Supreme Judicial Council secretary.

October 7, 2019

The Supreme Judicial Council rejects the allegations levelled against it by Justice Isa of being partial with regard to the presidential reference against him.

The council says that its stance with regard to the reference “is non-adversarial, fully impartial and entirely non-partisan”. The proceedings before the SJC are “immune from judicial review” by virtue of provisions under Article 211 of the Constitution of Pakistan.

October 13, 2019

Justice Isa tells the court that the reference against him was part of a “witch-hunt” aimed at “silencing judges”.

He reveals that the cumulative value of all three properties owned by his family is less than the value of a 1 kanal plot in posh residential areas of Pakistan.

He denies that his wife holds two identities, saying that spelling, and pronunciation are different in Spanish and English which is why there is a difference in his wife’s Spanish documents.

October 14, 2019

Munir A Malik, Justice Isa’s lawyer, says that the judge’s remarks in the Faizabad sit-in case prompted the reference against him. He claims that a “particular mindset” is targeting the judge through “coordinated efforts”.

Justice Isa once again casts doubt on the impartiality of the Supreme Judicial Council in his 17-page rejoinder to the council’s reply in the case.

He raised concerns over the attorney-general submitting the council's reply in the top court. The Constitution states that the attorney-general can only “give advice to the federal government” and perform other duties that “may be referred or assigned to him” by the government, he says.

November 28, 2019

The court asks how the Asset Recovery Unit raised funds to investigate Justice Isa’s properties.

February 18, 2020

Justice Isa accuses the federal government of spying on him and his family and collecting evidence through “unlawful means”.

“Surveillance of a judge and his family is not envisaged under this law,” he said in a document submitted in court. “All those who did so are now liable for criminal prosecution which this court may be graciously pleased to order.”

February 21, 2020

The government seeks a three-week adjournment in the case a day after Anwar Mansoor Khan resigns as attorney-general.

February 24, 2020

Barrister Khalid Javed Khan, the newly appointed attorney-general, recuses himself from representing the federal government in the presidential reference against Justice Isa.

June 1, 2020

Farogh Naseem resigns as law minister to represent the government in the presidential reference against Justice Isa.

Justice Isa, on the other hand, requests the top court to not allow Naseem to represent the government in the case and describes him as a ‘tout’.

June 2, 2020

Shahzad Akbar submits his reply in court. “In the present case there has been no surveillance or covert surveillance in relation to the petitioner or his family,” he says. All immovable properties in the UK are registered with the UK Land Registry and can be accessed by anyone.

June 3, 2020

The court asks Naseem to explain how the federal government gathered evidence against the judge.

Naseem claims that Justice Isa did not provide the money trail for his family’s properties.

Justice Bandial says that there is no allegation of corruption or dishonesty against the judge.

June 11, 2020

Justice Maqbool Baqar says that an elected government was once removed for spying on judges.

Benazir Bhutto was sacked as the prime minister in November 1996 over a number of shortcomings and failures, including spying on judges.

June 15, 2020

Naseem tells the court that the government, president, prime minister and law minister are ready to face the consequences if the presidential reference is quashed.

June 16, 2020

The Supreme Court advises the federal government to follow “due process” while initiating tax evasion proceedings against the judge’s family. The bench said that there were several flaws in the reference.

Justice Isa says that the recovery unit is “completely unrestrained and unaccountable”. He said that it conducted is investigation without any legislation.

June 17, 2020

Justice Isa makes a surprise appearance in court as his wife’s ‘messenger’ and tells the court that she is ready to explain how she bought her foreign properties.

Naseem tells the court that he met PM Khan to discuss the proposal on referring the case to the FBR.

June 18, 2020

The Supreme Court allows Justice Isa’s wife to disclose her source of income of her three UK properties.

Serena Isa records her statement via video link and reveals details of the three properties along with the money trail.

Naseem tells the court that the PM will resign if it is proven that he owns properties in the UK, adding that Shahzad Akbar does not possess any property there either.

June 19, 2020

The court announces it reserved verdict in the case and quashed the reference. The FBR has been instructed to file a report on Sarina Isa's assets in a week.

Supreme Court

Justice Qazi Faez Isa

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