ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday sought legal assistance from the attorney general of Pakistan as it heard a petition asking for a probe into the Videogate controversy involving an accountability court judge.
Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, during the hearing, observed that the controversy ‘must be looked into’ as the meetings by the judge – Arshad Malik – are ‘unusual and extraordinary’ and added that the issue is of the judiciary’s integrity.
He also wondered why the judge had held meetings with people connected to individuals he had convicted.
The petitioner’s counsel prayed upon the court to conduct a judicial inquiry in the matter.
“It would be better if a retired SC judge heads the inquiry commission,” said the counsel when asked who should lead the probe.
Justice Bandial identified three key issues that need to be taken into consideration: the sanctity of the institution, the correctness of the judgment and any misconduct by the judge under scrutiny.
Breaking his silence on the controversy regarding Accountability Court judge Arshad Malik’s video scam, Chief Justice of Pakistan Asif Saeed Khosa has observed that the meetings of the judge are “something unusual and extraordinary” and must be looked into.
“If questions are being raised over the integrity of the institution, it is a serious thing,” remarked the CJP, wondering why the judge held meetings with people who had been convicted by him.
A three-judge Supreme Court bench, headed by CJP and comprising Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed and Justice Umar Ata Bandial, on Tuesday took up constitution petitions filed by three local lawyers seeking probe into the video controversy.
A patient hearing was given to all petitioners.
Two renowned politicians Javed Hashmi and Mahmood Khan Achakzai were present in the courtroom to witness the proceedings.
Several Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz lawyers like Rafiq Rajwana were also present. Unlike his previous conduct, Justice Saeed did not utter a single word as he remained silent throughout the hearing.
During the hearing, the chief justice said, “If biasness is established, it vitiates everything.”
He also posed several questions as how to proceed in this matter.
“We have to see whether pressure on the judge was before or after the judgement was announced. It has to be examined that if biasness is established what will be the effect on evidences recorded by the accountability court judge and whether the matter be referred for retrial or only for writing of judgement on same evidences after hearing arguments of both parties,” said the CJP. “All these things are on our minds.”
At the end of the hearing, the chief justice said the petitioners gave suggestions as to how to proceed in this matter while the judges also “have something on their minds”.
The bench in its order states, “Let the attorney general for Pakistan appear on July 23 to assist the court on all diverse issues and regarding the options available in this regard.”
The CJP said that contempt proceedings may be initiated if allegations levelled by the PML-N leaders prove false.
During the hearing, the CJP asked the petitioners’ counsels to assist the bench in the proceedings in this matter as the main appeal against the Al-Azizia reference verdict was pending in the Islamabad High Court.
“What will be the purpose of this exercise of adjudicating the matter under Article 184 (3) of the Constitution,” he added.
The CJP remarked that when the apex court would look into the matter, then the high court would not.
However, he asked the petitioners to suggest the course of action to look into the matter as Nawaz Sharif’s appeal against the Al-Azizia reference judgement was pending in the IHC. “If we interfere, how we should interfere?” he added.
The CJP said several laws were applicable in this matter like electronic law, privacy law. “How can you record a video of a judge without his consent … how will the outcome affect the conviction?” remarked CJP Khosa.
Justice Umar Ata Bandial said, “There are three issues involved in this matter like sanctity of institution, correctness of judgement and misconduct by judge.”
Justice Bandial said there was a competent court for deciding on correctness of judgement while law regarding initiation of misconduct proceedings against any judge was available.
Regarding sanctity of institution, the judge said, “That is a serious issue and sanctity should be protected, but the matter will be taken up when the dust is settled as there should not be any emotional reaction.”
Justice Khosa remarked that sweeping statements should not be given as all judges, lawyers and politicians were not bad. He also made it clear that the judiciary was independent and it did not take suo motu notice on public demands, adding that the apex court “takes notice when its feels that interference is required”.
The CJP also asked the counsels whether they approached the SC in this matter because the convict was an influential person.
However, Khosa said, “By the grace of Allah, judges are strong enough to look into the matter.”
During the hearing, Ishtiaq Mirza’s counsel Chaudhry Munir Sadiq stated that the video scandal had raised questions over the integrity of the judiciary.
Referring to PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz’s July 6 press conference, the counsel requested the court to investigate into the matter and determine as to who was responsible.
Sadiq stated that all political parties, including the Pakistan Peoples Party and the Jamaat-e-Islami, and lawyers in Pakistan had demanded a probe into this matter. He proposed the court to form a commission led by a judge to look into the matter.
Ikram Chaudhry counsel for Sohail Akhtar, while referring to Article 9 of the Constitution, stated that the commission should search for truth and if contempt of court had taken place, action should be taken against those who were responsible.
The counsel stated that contempt of court proceedings be initiated in this matter.
When he stated that the court should conduct an investigation on the basis of cyber laws, the CJP asked whether all cases registered in the country and all the investigations conducted were done through the orders of the Supreme Court.
After the court break, petitioner and advocate Tariq Asad appeared in person before the bench and requested that other national institutions should not interfere in the administration of justice for independence of judiciary.
He stated that he had not given further details in this regard due to apprehension that the SC registrar would not entertain his petition.
Interestingly, none of the petitioners raised the issue of monitoring Nawaz Sharif’s trial by the apex court.