ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court will resume contempt of court proceedings against property tycoon Malik Riaz Hussain on Thursday (Feb 7) for hurling harsh allegations over six and a half years ago against then chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry and his son for alleged business deals.
A three-judge SC bench comprising Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, Justice Maqbool Baqar and Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah will take up the contempt of court proceedings initiated in June 2012 against chairperson of Messrs Bahria Town (Pvt) Ltd Malik Riaz for allegedly influencing judicial proceedings then.
While senior counsel Dr Abdul Basit had represented Mr Riaz in the contempt case in 2012, he said he was not sure if he would still be appearing on behalf of the respondent when asked about it.
Currently, in a majority of cases being heard by the apex court such as the implementation of the May 4, 2018 judgement against the housing schemes launched by Bahria Town in Malir, Rawalpindi and Murree, Mr Riaz is being defended by a panel of lawyers led by Barrister Ali Zafar, Aitzaz Ahsan, Zahid Bukhari and others.
SC to resume proceedings against Malik Riaz for hurling allegations against then CJP Iftikhar Chaudhry
The contempt proceedings against the property tycoon were initiated on June 13, 2012 by a three-judge bench comprising former judges namely Justice Mian Shakirullah Jan, Justice Tariq Parvez and Justice Amir Hani Muslim that sat beyond normal court timings to issue him a show-cause notice for hurling allegations against the then CJP at a press conference.
Mr Riaz had raised three questions while addressing the press conference for then CJP Chaudhry to answer against the backdrop of alleged financial wrongdoings by his son, Dr Arsalan Iftikhar. The property tycoon accused the then chief justice of holding late-night secret meetings.
The notice was taken on a note put up by then registrar of the SC Dr Faqir Hussain annexing the Urdu transcript of whatever had been stated by Mr Riaz verbatim in the media conference on charges of scandalising and bringing the court and its judges into hatred, ridicule, lowering the SC authority and also showing disrespect to the institution. The press conference also caused obstruction in the administration of justice due to the pending cases related to Bahria Town, the notice stated.
Later on Aug 9, Mr Riaz was formally indicted for committing contempt of court and the apex court asked then attorney general Irfan Qadir to prosecute him. Separately, Advocate Ashraf Gujjar moved a petition seeking placement of the name of the accused on the Exit Control List (ECL).
Next month the then attorney general furnished a list of witnesses, including former chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, his son Dr Arsalan, former registrar Dr Hussain, former premier Yousuf Raza Gilani and Salman Ahmed, son-in-law of Mr Riaz.
However, the apex court ruled on Sept 20 that Mr Qadir was not competent to prosecute the accused as he had represented the same accused as his defence counsel in the past. The bench also ordered its registrar to submit a list of senior counsel amongst whom the court would select one to act as a prosecutor on behalf of the court.
On Oct 26, Mr Qadir challenged the Sept 20 order in the SC with a request that he should be restored to prosecute Mr Riaz in the contempt case since it was both a requirement of the law as well as necessary to ensure a fair trial to the contemnor.
In his review petition, Mr Qadir had emphasised the importance of the AG, contenting that the job of the prosecutor was so important that it could not be allowed to be tainted with bias.
An element of bias in any corner of the prosecutor’s mind could vitiate the entire process of contempt proceedings, he said, adding that an advocate or a person appearing in defence could get away with bias but even a speck of bias on part of a prosecutor could wreak havoc on the process.
If the AG was biased in favour of the court, fair trial would be reduced to impossibility and if he was biased in favour of the respondent, dignity of the court would be compromised, the review petition had said.
Published in Dawn, February 2nd, 2019