|Supreme Court orders action against ‘graft trio’|
15 June 2012
ISLAMABAD - Disposing of the suo moto case of Dr Arsalan Iftikhar, the Supreme Court Thursday asked Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Irfan Qadir to take required action against real estate tycoon Malik Riaz Hussain, his son-in-law Salman Ali Khan and the chief justice’s son Dr Arsalan Iftikhar.Announcing the 11-page short order, the bench said, “While this suo moto action has been brought to an end in view of the material considered, the learned AGP who has assisted us in this case is fully abreast of all aspects of this case. It is our expectation that he will set the machinery of the state in motion so that all those who may have committed any illegal acts, including Malik Riaz Hussain, Dr Arsalan, Salman Ali Khan etc are pursued and brought to book with the full force and rigour of the law”. Justice Jawwad read out the judgment in a jam-packed courtroom. The judgment also contained observations against the alleged conduct of Dr Arsalan Iftikhar accused of working in tandem with Malik Riaz and his son-in-law. With reference to the documents placed on record by Malik Riaz, the court explained that they pertained mainly to money and other valuables, alleged to have given to Arsalan by the son-in-law of Riaz.The court said that bribery is not only an offense under law but also a sin, and both givers and takers of bribes were sinners. “The one who takes bribe and the one who gives it, both will go to hell,” Justice Jawad S Khawaja cited the Hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) while reading out the short order.The court ruled that if indeed this did happen, and if it was done in exchange for promises of delivering illegal favours, then these individuals must be tried and punished in accordance with law. The court made it clear that such attempts by individuals, even failed ones, are illegal and punishable according to the laws.These laws may include: s. 163 (illegal gratification using personal influence over public servant), s. 383 (extortion) s. 415 and s. 420 (cheating), of PPC and s. 9 of Nab Ordinance. The court did not, however, delve deeply into the contours of these various legal provisions nor did it determine the manner of their applicability to the present facts. That job, the court opined, was best left to competent investigating agencies and the trial court, who could better judge the matter on the basis of evidence.The verdict also noted that the supposed documentary evidence placed on record related only to around 4.5% of the alleged illegal transaction. No documentation had been supplied to the court about the cash transactions, stated to comprise around 95% of the alleged amount given in bribes.The judgment also pointed out that some of the problem stemmed out of lack of due diligence displayed by media. Justice Jawwad said that if there was indeed not a conspiracy to damage the reputation of the judiciary, then breaking this news through a public interview uploaded on the internet, was probably not the most constructive way of passing the news on.It also said that baseless allegations were levelled against the courts in the media, and that it should be more careful about its credibility and reputation. In the order, the court stated that the media had attacked the judiciary, adding that the statements of journalists showed that they did not try to get their facts straight.The judgment explained that the court had to take suo moto notice over this case only to vindicate the people’s guaranteed right to access to information about a matter of grave public importance. The matter of public importance in this case, the judgment explains, was the aspersion cast on the independence and integrity of the superior judiciary of this country, particularly that of the Supreme Court and the Chief Justice of Pakistan. The ensuing media frenzy had left the people of Pakistan deeply concerned about whether the hard-won gains of their recent struggle for the independence of the judiciary, waged through blood, toil and tears, had been frittered away.The judgment stated that Riaz Malik statement that “I have all the regards and respect for the esteemed Supreme Court of Pakistan and its Honourable judges including the Honourable Chief Justice of Pakistan... [And] I did not get any relief whatsoever in the Suo-Moto/Human Rights cases pending before the august court contrary to the assurances and promises made [by Dr Arsalan]”, was sufficient to settle the question of public importance.The court noted that a man who is accusing Dr Arsalan of involvement in wrongdoing, has himself conceded that the court, as an institution, has never been involved in any such act, then the aspersion cast on the judiciary’s reputation stood cleared.Justice Khawaja opined that when even a resourceful person such as Malik Riaz had been forced to concede failure in his attempt to compromise the integrity and independence of the country’s superior judiciary, despite the alleged payment of 34 crore rupees, then the public could rest assured that the gains of their struggle had not yet been frittered away. On this basis, suo moto action was brought to an end.Justice Khawaja suggested that the distinction between the conduct of Dr Arsalan and the institutional integrity of the apex court should have been kept in mind from the very beginning. It should not have taken an in court statement by Malik Riaz to settle that score.Justice Khilji Arif Hussain, in his additional note, stated that the court’s reputation cannot be considered to have been tarnished on account of the alleged misconduct of the relatives of judges, since such relatives are not officers of the state. He emphasised, however, that relatives of public officers should still show a high standard of conduct. Their failings, even personal ones, can sometimes cause great harm to the public and its institutions.Agencies add: The court rejected plea of Riaz’s counsel Zahid Bokhari of forming a commission to probe the case or handing it over to an investigation agency. The court also rejected suggestions put forth to hand over the case to an investigative commission or the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). But it said that transparent trial was the basic right of the parties involved.Attorney General Irfan Qadir however told the media that the case could be handed over to the NAB. Commenting on the short order, he said he said such cases are disposed off by the NAB if money is returned. But he said that he had not decided upon a course of action as yet, adding that he would read the short order properly before deciding.Talking to media persons outside the Supreme Court, Dr Arsalan Iftikhar said that he would defend all the allegations levelled on him by Malik Riaz.Replying to allegation hurled by Riaz during his press conference on Tuesday, the chief justice’s son questioned: “Do I look like a blackmailer or a don?” He said neither he visited Dubai and nor he has any plan. He said he has confidence over judiciary and he was satisfied with the ongoing proceeding of the case.
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