SC bench was decided on Nawaz’s disqualification , observes justice Azmat

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ISLAMABAD: Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed today while hearing review petitions filed by Sharif family and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said that the final Panama verdict was to be decided by the same five-member bench which had given April 20 judgement.

Justice Azmat said that the apex court had formed an implementation bench but the decision was to be ultimately made by the five-member bench. The implementation bench was to work as per directions provided by the five-member bench, he said.

Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif through his petition has 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. The same has been argued in petitions filed by Nawaz’s children, Hassan, Hussain and Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Captain (retd) Safdar as well as Finance Minister Ishaq Dar.

The counsel of Nawaz Sharif, Khawaja Harris, argued before the court that the final verdict (in the Panama Papers case) by the five-judge bench was not right as two honourable bench members had already given their verdict.

He said that there was no mention of a larger bench in the April 20 judgement and the decision should have been made by the same three-member bench which heard JIT investigation.

Harris was presenting his arguments before a five-member bench which began hearing today the review petitions filed by the former prime minister, his family and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar.

“My client was not given a fair trial. No show-cause notice was issued to him nor a chance to explain his position,” argued Harris.

In response, Justice Ijaz remarked that the judgment of the two judges [on April 20] was not challenged, thus it can be inferred that it was accepted. Harris responded that that was a minority judgment and was thus not challenged.

Harris contended that the question is whether the court could order the National Accountability Bureau to launch an investigation, adding that there is no legal precedent of appointment of a monitoring judge in such a case.

“Nawaz’s basic rights were usurped by appointing monitoring judge,” Harris said further.

Justice Ejaz said that the accountability court is free to reach to its own decision. The investigation can be reviewed and that the petitioners will be allowed the opportunity to argue with the witnesses and JIT members, he said.

 Responding to the objections raised in the petitions about the commendations and appreciations of the JIT as “a gross transgression” of the former prime minister’s right to a fair trial, Justice Ejaz said that he had praised the JIT report but it will be scrutinised in the trial court.

The counsel for Nawaz’s children and son-in-law, Salman Akram Raja, is also present in the courtroom and will present his arguments later.

The Supreme Court had decided on Tuesday to the Sharifs’ plea that a five-judge bench is formed to hear the review petitions against the July 28 Panama Papers case verdict instead of an already-formed three-member bench.

The new bench, headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, includes Justice Gulzar Ahmed, Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed and Justice Ijazul Ahsan.

All five judges were part of the Panama Papers case bench that disqualified Nawaz and ordered the filing of corruption cases against the others.

During hearing of the plea by the Sharifs for the formation of a larger bench on Tuesday, Raja 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 be 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.