President approves Justice Qazi Faez Isa’s appointment as next chief justice
The appointment will come into effect on September 17 when the incumbent chief justice of Pakistan (CJP), Justice Umar Ata Bandial, will retire.
An announcement issued by the presidency said CJP Bandial will reach the age of retirement on September 16 under Article 179 of the Constitution.
“The president has appointed the chief justice under Article 175 of the Constitution. The president will administer the oath to Justice Qazi Faez Isa on September 17,” it added.
Later, the Ministry of Law and Justice also notified Justice Isa’s appointment.
The notification, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, said: “In exercise of the powers conferred by clause 3 of Article 175A read with Article 177 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the president of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is pleased to appoint Honourable Justice Qazi Faez Isa, the most senior judge of the Supreme Court, as chief justice of Pakistan with effect from September 17, 2023.”
Who is Justice Qazi, Faez Isa?
Born in Quetta on Oct 26, 1959, Justice Qazi Faez Isa is the son of the late Qazi Mohammad Isa of Pishin, who was in the forefront of the Pakistan Movement and a close associate of Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
Justice Isa’s father was the first person from the province to acquire the Bar-at-Law degree and helped establish the All India Muslim League in Balochistan after his return from London. His father had served as the only member on the Central Working Committee of the All India Muslim League from Balochistan.
Begum Saida Isa, Justice Isa’s mother, was a social worker and worked in an honorary capacity on the boards of hospitals and other charitable organizations which focused on education, children, and women’s health issues.
After completing his primary and secondary education in Quetta, Isa moved to Karachi to finish his ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels at the Karachi Grammar School (KGS). He then went on to study law in London, where he completed his Bar Professional Examination from the Inns of Court School Law, London.
Justice Isa enrolled as an Advocate of the Balochistan High Court on Jan 30, 1985, and as an Advocate Supreme Court in March 1998.
He has practiced law for over 27 years before the high courts of Pakistan, the Federal Shariat Court, and the Supreme Court of Pakistan. He became a member of the Balochistan High Court Bar Association, Sindh High Court Bar Association, and a Life Member of the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan.
From time to time, he was called upon by the High Courts and the Supreme Court as amicus curiae and rendered assistance in certain complicated cases. He has also conducted international arbitration.
Justice Isa took oath as a judge of the Supreme Court of Pakistan on Sept 5, 2014.
Presidential reference against Justice Isa
He was also the subject of the presidential reference filed by the PTI government in May 2019, which alleged that he had acquired three properties in London on lease in the name of his wife and children between 2011 and 2015, but did not disclose them in his wealth returns.
Justice Isa had contested the allegations, saying he was not a beneficial owner of the flats — neither directly nor indirectly.
On June 19, 2020, a 10-member SC bench threw out the presidential reference against Justice Isa and termed it invalid. However, seven of the 10 judges on the bench ordered the Inland Revenue Department and the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to seek explanations from the judge’s wife and children on the nature and source of funding for three properties in their names in the UK and submit a report to the SC registrar.
Later in 2021, Justice Isa won the case which set aside the SC’s aforementioned directive after which the entire exercise conducted by the FBR was rendered null and void.
However, even when the reference was finally quashed in the second round, the PTI government instituted a curative review.
In March this year, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif ordered the immediate withdrawal of the reference, terming it “flimsy and baseless”. A day later, the president had also approved the withdrawal.
Split within the top court.
Justice Isa will take on the mantle amid a reported split within the country’s top court.
On March 27, Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail called for revisiting the power of the “one-man show” enjoyed by the CJP, saying that the country’s top court could not “be dependent on the solitary decision of one man”.
Similarly on March 29, Justice Isa and Justice Aminuddin Khan noted that the CJP did not have the power to make special benches or decide its members, and said that all hearings based on suo motu notices and cases of constitutional significance — under Article 184(3) — should be postponed until they were legislated upon.
Subsequently, a circular issued by the apex court registrar on March 31 said CJP Bandial had “disregarded” the judgment by Justice Isa and Justice Aminuddin. Later on April 4, a newly formed six-member apex court bench recalled the interim order by the two judges.
Justice Isa had subsequently penned a judicial note saying that the six-member bench that a six-member bench did not “constitute a constitutional court nor possessed with any jurisdiction”.
The perception of division
The perception of division and bitterness among SC judges had become stronger amid the developments but a thaw was witnessed on April 11 when Justice Isa held a meeting with CJP Bandial at the latter’s chambers. A source privy to the development had told Dawn that the meeting was held in a congenial atmosphere, and the perception of widening fissures within the judiciary, and ideas to improve the image of the judiciary and restore citizens’ trust had come under discussion.
But days later the SC had issued a sternly worded rejection of an “utterly false news report” regarding an “alleged altercation” between the apex court’s judges.
Later on May 20, the government constituted a judicial commission comprising three senior judges, including Justice Isa, tasked with probing the veracity of recent audio leaks and “their impact on the independence of the judiciary”.
However, on May 26, a SC bench headed by CJP Bandial stayed the proceedings of the judicial commission. Subsequently, CJP Bandial had remarked that the Supreme Court did not want to strike down the commission but the move to stay proceedings was merely aimed at protecting the independence of the judiciary.
Proposing that the judiciary and executive interact with each other in a transparent manner, Justice Bandial had observed that the government should consult the chief justice of Pakistan before inducting judges into judicial commissions in line with convention.
Meanwhile, earlier this month, Justice Isa had said that the “narrative” of him having “intentionally created” a separate group of judges within the superior judiciary was “factually incorrect and completely untrue”.
His remarks were part of a clarification he issued regarding a video posted on social media which implied he had snubbed CJP Bandial after the oath-taking ceremony of Federal Shariat Court’s Chief Justice Iqbal Hameedur Rahman.