The Supreme Court on Friday, soon after giving directives to place names of Axact CEO Shoaib Shaikh and other accused in the fake degree case on the Exit Control List (ECL), rescinded its order on the request of journalists present in court.
The court ordered Shaikh, who is also the owner of Bol Network, to submit a written reply in the case and hand over his passport to the Sindh High Court.
The bench took back its order to place names of the accused on ECL on the request of senior journalists, including Sami Ibrahim and Javed Soomro, and directed Shaikh to submit a written guarantee that he would not leave the country.
During the hearing, Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Director General Basheer Memon informed the bench, headed by Chief Justice Saqib Nisar, that Axact runs websites of 330 universities which do not even have campuses.
Memon said that Axact is not affiliated with the said universities but it is possible to get a degree within an hour at the cost of around Rs500,000.
The court was informed that around 70 per cent of the company's revenue comes from the said universities, while the software export company also has nine other business units.
The official said that the Axact has its own accreditation platform.
"How can they accredit [universities]?" the CJP asked, and said that certain laws need to be followed for accreditation, when he was told that only a webpage has been created by Axact for the purpose.
"If this is what has been happening since 2006 until 2015, people have been defrauded," Justice Nisar observed.
Lower courts told to expedite proceedings
The court was also informed that the accused were acquitted by the IHC at which the CJP asked about the veracity of rumours about the judge in the case being paid for granting bails to the accused.
The court then ordered the Sindh High Court (SHC) and Islamabad High Court (IHC) to promptly decide on the pending cases regarding Axact.
The chief justice directed the SHC to constitute a bench to hear the case within a week and give the verdict within two weeks. Justice Gul Hassan was added to the already existing one-member bench of the IHC hearing the case, which was asked to give its decision within three weeks.
Expressing displeasure at the Peshawar High Court (PHC) registrar's absence from court despite clear orders, the CJP took a suo motu notice of the fake degree case in the PHC and ordered FIA to file an appeal in the case.
SC also directed the lower courts to suspend bails of the accused if they do not cooperate with the courts.
Bol Television's former employees, who were also present in the court, said that they have not been paid since 2015. "There are around 40 affected people in Rawalpindi and Islamabad, and many others across the country," the employees said.
The Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA) also filed an application in the court highlighting irregularities in Axact's businesses and its linkages with Labbaik media house, which operates Bol.
Shoaib Shaikh was then issued a notice by the SC to submit his reply on the application by the PBA, while the channel's former employees were also asked to submit an application.
"We will decide the case after looking at both sides," the CJP remarked, before adjourning the hearing for two weeks.
Chief justice Nisar had taken suo motu notice of the Axact fake degree scandal last month after international news reports said over 3,000 UK citizens had purchased fake degrees from Axact in 2013 and 2014.
The recent news came just months after an in-depth investigation by Canada's national broadcaster uncovered that hundreds of people working in diverse fields across Canada possess bogus degrees issued by Axact.