ISLAMABAD: A five-member bench of the Supreme Court is hearing the Sharif family’s review petitions against the July 28 judgment in the Panama Papers case.
The bench, headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and comprising Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, Justice Gulzar Ahmed, Justice Azmat Saeed, Justice Ijazul Ahsen, is seized with the hearing of the review petitions filed by deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his children – Hussain, Hassan, Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law retired Capt Safdar.
At the outset, Advocate Khawaja Harris, who is representing Sharif, argued that the July 28 verdict should have been given by a three-member bench as Justice Khosa and Justice Ahmed had already given their decision in the 3-2 split verdict on April 20, dissenting from the majority opinion that called for further investigation against the Sharif family through a joint investigation team.
He argued that the two judges should not have signed the July 28 verdict.
To which, the judges observed the three-member bench was constituted to implement the April 20 verdict, which ceased to exist soon after the completion of an investigation by the JIT. Thus, the five-judge bench was to decide the case in light of the JIT report, they added.
All five judges unanimously disqualified Sharif, though the grounds on which he was disqualified may have been different, observed Justice Khosa. He said the two judges, who had given the dissenting note, didn’t add anything in the July 28 verdict.
Harris contended his client was not afforded a fair hearing. The former prime minister should have been served a show-cause notice before dislodging him from office to explain his position, he added.
Assailing the bench’s decision to appoint a monitoring judge of the apex court to oversee proceedings against the Sharif family in accountability court, he said it was unprecedented and likely to influence the proceedings, depriving his client of right to fair trial.
Earlier on Tuesday, Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Justice Mian Saqib Nisar formed the five-judge bench on the recommendation of a three-judge bench that had taken up the application of Sharif to re-constitute a five-judge larger bench that had handed down the July 28 verdict.
On July 28, the apex court had disqualified Nawaz Sharif for not being honest for concealing his salary from a Dubai-based company and directed the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to file references against him and his children on the basis of the report of a joint investigation team that probed their off-shore properties.
Sharif had filed a set of review petitions challenging the verdict on the petitions filed by Imran Khan, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed and Sirajul Haq, requesting the court to review its judgment.
Harris submitted in petitions that the verdict in the Panamagate case was in violation of the Constitution and negated the facts. The court failed to take into consideration the true facts, thus, the disqualification verdict against his client is liable to be overturned, he submitted.
Besides, the counsel said, his client has been deprived of right to fair trial by appointing a monitoring judge to oversee NAB proceedings against him.
Harris contended that Sharif had not hid his salary in his nomination papers for the 2013 polls – the ground on which he was disqualified for not being honest and trustworthy.
Under Article 188 of the Constitution, Sharif cannot be disqualified without a trial, petitions further said.
The former prime minister’s children – Hussain, Hassan and Maryam Nawaz and her spouse retired Capt Muhammad Safdar had also filed separate appeals seeking review of the verdict that directed the national anti-graft watchdog to file references against them in connection with their off-shore properties.
The applicants through their counsel filed appeals, pleading the apex court to review its judgment and stay further implementation of it until their appeals are decided.
They contended that the Supreme Court could not direct NAB to file references against them and argued that the top court had become a party to NAB proceedings and thus, depriving them of their right to fair trial guaranteed under the Constitution.
They submitted that the way Panama JIT carried out investigation did not conform to the principles of justice. Besides, the appointment of a SC judge to monitor NAB proceedings is in violation of the articles of the constitution that guarantee the right to fair trial under due process of law and right to life and dignity and protection.