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No relief for Nawaz unless high court rules in his favour: CJP.

Byline: Nasir Iqbal

ISLAMABAD -- Chief Justice of Pakistan Asif Saeed Khosa hearing the judge's video scandal case on Tuesday observed that no relief could come to the convict (former premier Nawaz Sharif) unless the Islamabad High Court ruled in his favour, wondering why the aggrieved party had approached the Supreme Court instead of seeking relief from the IHC when the convict was in jail.

'It is surprising, but everyone has their own options,' the chief justice observed, reiterating that the IHC was the real forum for the aggrieved party to seek any relief.

He made these observations while heading a three-judge SC bench that had taken up three identical petitions on the video scandal, all seeking a direction from the apex court for the constitution of a probe committee or a judicial commission. The petitions were filed by Ishtiaq Ahmed Mirza, Sohail Akhtar and Tariq Asad.

Wonders why aggrieved party did not move IHC for relief; judge's video case put off till mid-August allowing FIA to complete probe

The chief justice also made it clear that the SC would do whatever it considered the best in the given circumstances instead of moving in haste on the instigation or the prompting of someone else. 'We will not be groping in the dark and we are in no hurry,' he observed, explaining that the court would ensure that whatever decision taken should not be tilted in someone's favour or shift burden on other's shoulder.

Regarding the conduct of accountability court judge Mohammad Arshad Malik, the chief justice was of the opinion that his conduct was a separate matter and the court knew what to do. However, he vowed that the matter would not go unattended and would be handled appropriately. He said if the judge had a vulnerable spot, this very vulnerability was harmful to the judiciary as well. The conduct of the accountability judge came into question since he was blackmailed because of this, the CJP remarked.

The bench postponed further proceedings for three weeks to await the outcome of an ongoing inquiry initiated by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on an FIR lodged on the complaint by judge Malik through the cybercrime reporting wing of Islamabad.

The CJP emphasised that it was for the high court to order recording of fresh evidence or additional evidence or sending the entire matter to the trial court for re-determination, otherwise, all the new material would just be an opinion unless brought by the high court as admissible evidence.

When all those options were available with the high court, the chief justice observed, the apex court would consider whether it was advisable to interfere at this stage. Instead of making headlines every other day in the media, would the SC interference help or simply prejudice the entire case.

Leaving aside the conduct or misconduct of the judge Malik, a member of this court had also been maligned, Justice Umar Ata Bandial regretted, adding that in this situation the investigation being conducted by the FIA should be allowed to complete.

To establish the truth, the court would also have to look for remedy for the aggrieved party, he emphasised, adding: 'We want to protect integrity of the institution and we are not just examining the allegations of the complainant.'

The CJP recalled that the high court had two capacities, first to act as appellate court and the other to supervise or superintend the trial court.

Attorney General Anwar Mansoor while assisting the bench requested the SC not to interfere in the matter at this stage since any observation by the court could adversely affect the FIA inquiry that commenced on July 16. During the initial probe, Mian Tariq Mehmood, who had allegedly sold the judge's video to a politician Mian Saleem Raza before the latter fled the country, was arrested and remanded to the judicial custody.

The video that the suspect had sold was later handed over to Nasir Butt who was mentioned by the judge in his affidavit.

The AG said the FIA was trying to locate both suspects Saleem and Butt. Besides the FIA inquiry, there were several other options as well such as the initiation of a charge by National Accountability Bureau, under contempt of court law, Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) laws or the constitution of a commission on the Supreme Court order or a judicial commission by the government.

AG Mansoor explained that the compromising video was recorded somewhere in 2000-03. 'Although we have forensic laboratories to ascertain the veracity of the video clip, there is no facility to issue authentic certification,' he said, adding that the records were not available as the video had been digitally transferred to a USB.

Referring to judge Malik's affidavit, the AG explained that the judge himself had confessed about some Multani video by describing it as a threat.

During the hearing when the AG referred to the judge's meeting with ex-PM Sharif at Jati Umra, the CJP said the timing of their meeting would suggest whether the judge was honest or not. The chief justice also raised a few questions such as why the accountability judge was in Jati Umra (residence of the ex-PM) after pronouncement of the verdict; why the judge had met those he had convicted; why the convict had been arrested at the airport the moment he arrived in Pakistan.

Justice Bandial said it seemed the meeting was held when Nawaz Sharif was on a six-week bail for medical treatment.
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Publication:Dawn (Karachi, Pakistan)
Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Jul 24, 2019
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