SC rejects ToRs for being wide, open-ended

WEB DESK: Rejecting the federal government’s request to form an inquiry commission to investigate the Panama Papers, Chief Justice of Pakistan Anwar Zaheer Jamali on Friday averred that the wide and open-ended terms of reference (ToRs) would result in the constitution of a “toothless” commission which will serve no useful purpose.

— Government asked to provide list of all those required to be probed

— Row becomes more complex

Responding to the federal government’s letter dated April 22 through which it urged the CJ to form a Commission to investigate the Panama leaks, the Registrar of the apex court, Arbab Muhammad Arif, wrote to Secretary Ministry of Law & Justice that the “formation of Commission of Inquiry under the Pakistan Commission of Inquiry Act 1956 (Act VI of 1956)…will result in the constitution of a toothless Commission which will serve no useful purpose, except giving a bad name to it”.

The Registrar added that “the terms of reference incorporated in the attached notification are so wide and open-ended that, prima facie, it may take years for the Commission to conclude its proceedings” and requested the Law Secretary to provide a list of those required to be probed in the Panama papers.

“Therefore, before forming any opinion as to the formation of requisite Commission of inquiry or otherwise, it is necessary to have the list of all individuals, families, groups, companies, etc, with their total number, along with some relevant particulars, against whom purported inquiry proceedings are to be held under paragraph No 1(a) & (b) of the terms of reference,” the letter adds.

“Unless such information and particulars are provided and the issue of formation of Commission under some proper legislation is reconsidered and resolved, no final response to your letter can be furnished,” the Registrar’s letter concluded.

While talking to Business Recorder, President Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) Barrister Ali Zafar said, “the ToRs suggested by the government are inadequate and do not empower the Commission to conduct an independent and proper inquiry. The apex court has rightly rejected the ToRs and advised the government to legislate to give power to the Commission to conduct an inquiry against those identified”.

He further stated that the SCBA had already raised these very same objections and advised the government to legislate with appropriate ToRs or else the apex court was unlikely to accept the terms of the April 22 letter.

“The government should now sit across the table with the opposition and draft consensus ToRs and the SCBA is willing to act as a bridge in the national interest to resolve the issue at hand,” Ali concluded. – Business Recorder