ISLAMABAD: Resuming his arguments before five-member bench of the Supreme Court on Thursday, ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s counsel Khawaja Harris said that Article 62(1)(f) of the constitution could not be applied to anyone merely concealing assets.
The court was hearing a set of review appeals filed by Sharif family members when Khawaja Haris said that he had been unable to know any precedents in which the court had disqualified a public representative under Article 62 for concealing assets.
Cautioning long-lasting adverse outcomes of life-time disqualification term, the counsel claimed that the constitution does not specify such kind of disqualification under Article 62.
“My client has been disqualified for life-time on not disclosing his work permit and salary from an offshore company, [however] nullifying general elections could only dismiss him for a single election term [five year term],” he further said.
The senior counsel added that although his client was not backtracking from the employment agreement but he did not have a bank account for the purpose.
To which, Justice Ejaz Afzal said that the employment agreement showed that a salary of 10,000 dirhams had been set for Sharif.
Joining in arguments, Justice Ahsan said that the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) documents tell us that Sharif had a bank account to receive the salary. “According to the probing team findings, the first salary was drawn on August 1, 2013.”
“The question is, how can the court accept verbally that Nawaz Sharif did not receive the salary?” questioned Justice Afzal, adding that a statement could not be accepted without scrutiny under the law of evidence.
The bench ruled that the documents provided by the JIT looking into the Sharif family’s businesses show that Nawaz Sharif did receive salary as the chairman of Capital FZE.
To which, Harris argued that not every salary constitutes an asset.
“Sharif did not merit disqualification merely on this basis, [although] he had not withdrawn salary [from Capital FZE], it still constituted an asset [due to being a receivable],” Harris said.
The counsel contended that references could not be filed against the Sharif family on the basis of the JIT report, which he said was incomplete.
“We did not issue the verdict in light of the JIT report,” Justice Afzal responded, adding that court does not accept the report as credible evidence. He said the petitioners have the full right of defence in the accountability court.
Justice Asif Saeed Khosa meanwhile observed that the apex court had in the past provided relief to Nawaz Sharif over violation of fundamental rights.
“Do not give the impression that the Supreme Court has become a complainant [against Sharif],” he said.
“Whenever cases were established against Sharif in violation of legal provisions, it was this Supreme Court that safeguarded him.”
The hearing was then adjourned till tomorrow (Friday).
The bench, headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and comprising Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, Justice Gulzar Ahmed, Justice Azmat Saeed, Justice Ijazul Ahsan, is seized with the hearing of the review petitions filed by Sharif family members against top court’s July 28 judgment.
On Wednesday, Advocate Khawaja Harris 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 contended 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.