SC questions Panama papers case admissibility

ISLAMABAD (Agencies): Expressing concern over admissibility of a case relating to the Panama Papers scandal under the Article 184(3), the top court Friday observed that presently there is a different opinion on matters relating to original jurisdiction.
A two-member bench led by Justice Sardar Tariq Masood and comprising Justice Aminuddin Khan was hearing the plea of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Amir Sirajul Haq, seeking an investigation against 436 Pakistanis named in Panama Papers leaks. The court held that the question of maintainability of the petition under Article 184(3) would have been relevant, but the issue was decided on November 3, 2016 with the consent of the petitioners and respondents at that time. “In 2016, even the government had praised Article 184(3),” Justice Sardar Tariq Masood observed.
At the outset of the hearing, the JI chief requested the formation of a judicial commission to probe into the matter but was quickly intercepted by Justice Masood who wondered why it had taken the petitioner so long to raise these concerns. “It took you seven years to realise this issue is of public interest?” questioned the judge, “was the point [during the 2016 proceedings] only to run the Panama case against one specific family?”.
Referring to the Panama Papers proceedings in which then prime minister Nawaz Sharif was disqualified from holding public office, the SC judge remarked “that concerned Panama and so does this. Why did you not say before the court at that time that the case for named parties should be heard together?” “Were the cases de-linked then on your request?” asked Justice Masood before “hesitating to say that it appears as though something else is cooking here”.
He continued, “The bench had granted you [JI] such a major relief at that time. Why didn’t you ask the bench to club these petitions? For what reason were these petitions de-linked from the five-member bench hearing the other case?” However, he asked “in the past seven years, have you requested any of the concerned institutions to investigate the matter? Does this case not fall under the Income Tax Ordinance, 2001, the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP)? Did you approach the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), the Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) or the FBR?
“If in the presence of statutory bodies, a commission was constituted, how will these bodies work? Can an order even be passed without hearing the 436 persons?” the judge asked. “There must be business personalities among the 436 individuals, do you want to drive them away? Creating an offshore company is not a crime, it is seen how the company was created that is to be the point of concern. Issuing such orders against 436 persons would be injustice,” remarked Justice Masood.
The JI’s counsel pleaded that the petitioners sought an investigation into the accused, but Justice Masood in response wondered why they wished to “bypass the law”. “Should we shut down all other institutions?” he asked, “do you want the SC to decide all matters?” “How the off-shore companies were formed is to be investigated by the concerned institutions,” the judge stressed. The JI lawyer said that the petitioners “do not intend to target anyone”. “But they did target someone back then,” retorted Justice Mansoor. “When the SC sits above all and passes judgments, what are all the other institutions supposed to do?”
Justice Khan seconded his views by saying that “we will not take any suo motu notices here”. “One wishes to say a lot more but we will show restraint,” he added. Justice Mansoor also said that in other judgments, “the SC even did things that were not even written. It even went ahead with the disqualification.”