Justice Qazi Faez Isa was sworn in as the 29th chief justice of Pakistan on Sunday.
He was administered the oath of office by President Arif Alvi during a ceremony at Aiwan-i-Sadr in Islamabad. Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar and Chief of Army Staff Asim Munir were also in attendance.
The ceremony began with the recitation of the Holy Quran, following which the notification for Justice Isa’s appointment was read out. The president then administered the oath to Justice Isa, whose wife Sarina Isa stood by his side.
Who is Justice Isa?
Born in Quetta on October 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 organisations 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 from the Karachi Grammar School (KGS). He then went on to study law from 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 January 30, 1985, and as an Advocate Supreme Court in March 1998.
He has practised 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 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 September 5, 2014.
The biggest challenge Justice Isa may encounter during his tenure as the CJP would be unifying the court and restoring the court’s credibility, so that no one could point a finger at the court’s judgements.
The perceived practice of the formation of a particular bench consisting of ‘like-minded judges’ to hear constitutional matters of public importance has become the basis of criticism of the top judiciary.
There has been a general feeling that senior judges were being left out in the formation of benches for desired outcomes of the proceedings.
On his first day at the helm on Monday, Justice Isa will take up a set of challenges to the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Act 2023 — a bill that required the formation of benches on constitutional matters of public importance by a committee of three senior judges.
An eight-judge bench headed by the outgoing CJP on April 13 suspended the enforcement of the Supreme Court (Practice & Procedure) Act, 2023.
In a statement, a Justice Isa-led commission had earlier questioned the formation of a bench that was hearing a set of six challenges against the probe body formed to look into the audio leaks, saying that the bench hearing the matter was not determined by a three-member committee of judges as required under the suspended act.
Since the petitions challenging the audio commission were not fixed before the bench constituted by the committee of judges; therefore, these petitions cannot be heard until the committee determines which bench should hear them, the commission had stated.
On June 3, Justice Isa decided not to sit on a nine-judge bench hearing cases on the trial of civilians by the military courts, saying he did not want to violate the suspension of the law; until the court decides about the vires of the practice and procedure law he will not sit on the benches. As a result, Justice Isa chose to do chamber work instead of holding court hearings.
The biggest test Justice Isa may face as the CJP, according to a senior counsel who wished not to be named, will come when the controversy regarding general elections within 90 days of the dissolution of the national and provincial assemblies may land in the Supreme Court.
In addition, he will also have to maintain a working relationship with the executive. President Arif Alvi asked the Election Commission of Pakistan to seek guidance from the Supreme Court on holding general elections on the same day.
About the pending hearing on the trial of civilians by the military courts, the counsel explained that the case may not be his individual challenge but of the entire court, and since Justice Isa had already expressed his opinion in an earlier case, he might even choose to sit on the bench.
In a dissenting judgement against military courts in August 2015, Justice Isa observed the 21st Amendment does not succeed in its attempt to try civilians by the military and that the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997, which if implemented would help to stem terrorism and also ensure the conviction of terrorists.
To determine how Justice Isa will conduct his business at the SC, the senior lawyer said he “understands the dynamics clearly” as he remained the top judge of the Balochistan High Court from 2009 to 2014 — a very sensitive period when military operations were ongoing in Balochistan. Another challenge for Justice Isa will also be how to tackle the whopping pendency of over 56,000 cases.