The special bench of the Supreme Court is set to classify on Thursday (today), the nature of the case involving businessman Malik Riaz and chief justice’s son Arsalan Iftikhar.
The rules of the proceedings to follow in the case would be laid down after the special bench – comprising Justice Jawad S Khwaja and Justice Khilji Arif Hussain – decide whether it is a dispute between two individuals or a deeper conspiracy against the judiciary, jurists told The Express Tribune.
The bench had reserved the verdict on Tuesday after hearing the case, which the chief justice initiated suo motu after taking notice of media reports that his son was involved in a dubious deal with Malik Riaz. Counsel for Riaz and Arsalan have already agreed upon formation of a commission for verification of their claims.
The fundamental options — formation of a larger bench, referral of the matter for an investigation, and formation of a commission – for the bench on how to proceed on the case remain unchanged, said former law minister Khalid Anwar.
The Supreme Court may form a commission that could hold a probe into the matter and submit its report to the apex court, he said. “According to the law, the report would lack admissibility and could be challenged easily. It would not cast a criminal liability against anyone,” he added.
For example, he said, former ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani could say he wanted to cross-examine the three chief justices who laid down the report. Anwar said the court might not send the matter either to the National Accountability Bureau or the Federal Investigation Agency either.
He said the bench might form a commission for hearing of the case outside of the Supreme Court because it had become “politically sensitive.”
Another prominent lawyer Raza Kazim insisted the case did not merit the formation of a commission because “it was simply not between two individuals.” “If a commission is appointed, it would serve as a smoke screen. There is little doubt about the involvement of Riaz and Arsalan in the case, but the real question pertains to the suspicions raised on the role of the chief justice and the poor man’s institution — the judiciary,” he said.
“Malik Riaz raises allegations against the chief justice and mentions a sitting judge without naming him. He is obviously trying to cast doubts on the role of the judiciary,” Kazim said. The best option for the Supreme Court would be to the deal with the case itself, he added.
Why suo motu?
Heading the special bench, Justice Khawaja had said the proceedings were being held to confirm whether doubts were being cast on the role of judiciary. Riaz’s counsel was quick to raise objections to the scope, stating the matter pertained to his client and Arsalan alone. “Therefore, this matter could not be taken up in the suo motu jurisdiction,” he had said.
Anwar said the court has not mentioned two important factors — question of fundamental rights and public interest. The court might reply to the objection when it delivers the order on Thursday (today), he said.
Kazim said that the objection raised by Riaz’s counsel lacked substance because an effort had been made to debase an institution, which had been waging a “war against corruption in the best public interest.”
Published in The Express Tribune, June 14th, 2012.
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