ISLAMABAD: Islamabad High Court’s (IHC) Acting Chief Justice Amir Farooq on Tuesday met with Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Asif Saeed Khosa, as the legal fraternity is swooped in by the controversy surrounding the leaked video of Judge Arshad Malik of the accountability court.
The meeting between the two senior judges lasted around 40 minutes.
While no statement was issued to the media regarding the meeting, there is strong possibility that its agenda was to deliberate over the ‘leaked’ video shared by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Vice President Maryam Nawaz during a news conference last week.
It purportedly shows Judge Arshad Malik saying that he sentenced former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in the Al Azizia reference under duress.
Judge Malik had also met with Justice Farooq on Monday. However, the IHC did not pass any order in this matter.
According to legal experts, the superior judiciary’s credibility is at stake. They say that the Supreme Court should itself take notice as the apex court judge monitored the trial in the Panamagate case.
On the other hand, one section of lawyers ruled out the possibility that bribe was offered to the judge to favour Nawaz in response to the clarification issued by the judge following the video.
The accountability court had said in a statement that he not only did not deliver the verdict under duress but he was also approached by the PML-N for a favourable verdict.
The opinion in the legal fraternity is that the superior judiciary had initiated actions to curb corruption and corrupt practices following its restoration in 2009 after the Lawyers’ Movement.
One senior lawyer pointed out that while the entire country was engaged in the debate over the leaked video, no one was talking about the blunder committed by the judge by issuing a formal clarification.
He says that now Nawaz Sharif’s lawyer can summon Judge Malik in the PML-N leader’s pending appeal and cross-examine the judge on the contents of his clarification.
The lawyer may ask Judge Malik about all such ‘dubious meetings and conversations he has had’ in relation to this case, he said.
He said that if the judge omits any such details which come to light later, then he will be guilty of lying under oath. “Then what will be the fate of the judgment whose author’s credibility has been shredded in cross-examination in that very appeal,” the senior lawyer added.
He said Maryam Nawaz’s decision to raise the issue in the media was turning out to be a masterstroke. “Had she raised it in appeal only and not gone to the media, the judge may not have issued the clarification and exposed himself to cross-examination. It’s a win-win for Nawaz as it will now be unsafe to sustain the judgment,” he said while adding that the emergence of more videos would further damage the case.
“It only reminds me of US Justice Powell who had said that we may never know who the real winner in the Bush vs Gore election was but we know who the real loser was. In this case, it is the credibility of the court,” he said.
Meanwhile, a member of the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) urged the CJP to take notice of the leaked video.
“I propose that the PBC may consider demanding suo motu action to be taken by the Honourable Chief Justice of Pakistan and constitute a larger bench for hearing the same and the PBC should apply to join the proceedings to assist in this matter,” said PBC Executive Member Raheel Kamran Sheikh in his letter written to 22 members of the apex body of lawyers for holding an emergency meeting on the issue, which according to him is significant for the independence of judiciary.
Alternatively, Sheikh also proposed that PBC may itself file a constitution petition before the Supreme Court praying for the issuance of appropriate directions for: (i) holding, without any further loss of time, an independent and impartial inquiry/investigation into this matter, among others to ascertain genuineness or otherwise of the video of the alleged conversation of the Islamabad accountability court judge, (ii) appropriate consequential orders in case the aforementioned videotape is found to be genuine; (iii) an order regarding live broadcast of all proceedings in these cases of public importance, in case the aforementioned videotape is found to be genuine; (iv) an appropriate legal action against the accountability court judge for any misconduct; and (v) any other relief which PBC considers appropriate to seek under the Constitution from the SC in this situation.
Sheikh stated that the counter allegations of attempting to bribe and intimidate the judge were equally serious. Being members of the apex bar and stakeholders in the struggle to establish the rule of law, independence of the judiciary and the safe administration of justice, “we should all be concerned about what is happening and hold an urgent meeting of the council”, it added.
Meanwhile, PBC Vice Chairman Amjad Shah told The Express Tribune that action should be initiated against the accountability court judge for violating efficiency and disciplinary rules. He questioned why the judge held a meeting with an individual like Nasir Butt.