For the first time in the country’s judicial history, a son was summoned to the apex court by his father to probe a scandal that threatened the latter’s integrity. While several quarters raised their eyebrows citing conflict of interest, scores of people thronged the Supreme Court Wednesday morning to witness the historic proceedings.
Dr Arsalan Iftikhar stood before a three-judge bench headed by his father, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry as the proceedings began.
The chief justice, aware of the dilemma, promised that if found guilty, his son will be convicted in the case.
Following media reports that Arsalan had received between Rs300 and Rs400 million from a real estate tycoon to influence judicial proceedings, the court had summoned him and Bahria Town’s chief Malik Riaz late Tuesday night.
Malik Riaz, however, did not appear before the court on Wednesday and a personal staff officer informed the court that he was in the United Kingdom, undergoing medical treatment.
Conflict of interest
Attorney general Irfan Qadir objected to the bench, saying it was “against the code of conduct” for the chief justice to hear this case. Justice Jawwad S Khwaja replied that the chief justice’s son was not above the law and could be tried in court “by the man who had most respect for this institution.”
Qadir, however, said that Justice Khwaja was being “very emotional” and should not hear the case either.
“Though [Arsalan] is my son, he will be dealt in accordance with the law if found guilty,” the chief justice said. “We can’t give concession to any party over the institution; and for the sake of its prestige, we can go to any extent,” he added.
The chief justice also said that the guilty will be convicted in this case.
In response to this, the attorney general said that not only must justice be done, “it must also be seen to be done.”
“Insha’allah, you will see it in this case,” the chief justice replied.
Justice Khilji Arif Hussain, the third member of the bench, said they would not spare anyone who would defame the judiciary.
The chief justice, however, recorded the attorney general’s objection and said that an “appropriate order” will be passed on Thursday.
Malik Riaz and son
In the absence of Bahria Town Chairman Malik Riaz and his son Ahmed Ali Riaz, Arsalan’s lawyer Sardar Ishaq sought some time from the court. The chief justice, however, refused, saying no concession should be expected.
An employee of Malik Riaz informed the court that he (Riaz) was in the UK undergoing treatment. The chief justice asked if Riaz had received the court’s summons, to which the employee replied that he had “not been able to get in touch as yet.”
When asked who took care of business affairs in Riaz’s absence, the officer took eight names including Malik Riaz’s son, Ahmed.
Vice Chief Executive Bahria Town Maryam Rehman also appeared before the court and said that the chairman was in London, while his son was in Dubai. She also said that Malik Riaz has resigned from his post.
Commodore Illyas, another official of Bahria Town, informed the court that board members are responsible for different projects of Bahria Town. Lt Gen (retd) Ehtisham, also an employee, said they have no knowledge of this scam.
The court summoned Malik Riaz and his son Ahmed for a hearing on Thursday (today), along with a complete record of allegations they have leveled against Arsalan.
The court directed chairman Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan to produce the entire records of Bahria Town. The court also issued notices to chief executive of Geo TV and anchors Kamran Khan, Najam Sethi and Shaheen Sehbai to appear before the court with evidence, since they hosted programmes on the issue.
Conspiracy against the SC
Speaking to the media outside the courtroom, Arsalan’s counsel said the court had taken no decision and had adjourned the hearing till Thursday, June 7.
The court had said that data relating to the case would be provided to the counsel in the next hearing.
“I feel this is a conspiracy to malign the Supreme Court,” Arsalan’s lawyer said. “We will expose the people behind this conspiracy,” he added.
Earlier, upon reaching the court, Arsalan had said that allegations against him, of receiving money and lavish foreign trips from Bahria Town, were “baseless.”
He added that he was “not allowed to go back home” until the court gave its verdict.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 7th, 2012.