The Supreme Court on Tuesday reserved its verdict on three identical petitions on a video scandal involving accountability court judge Arshad Malik. The petitions seek a formal directive from the apex court for the constitution of an inquiry committee or a judicial commission.
A three-member bench, headed by Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, heard the case. Attorney General Anwar Mansoor Khan and Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Director General Bashir Memon were also present to argue the matter.
During the hearing, Chief Justice Khosa discussed the interim report submitted by the FIA director general earlier today. The top judge observed that the case concerned two videos — one through which the judge was blackmailed, and the other which was aired at Maryam Nawaz's press conference.
The bench, however, raised questions about the authenticity of the videos in question. The chief justice noted that judge Malik had already admitted that the "objectionable video" was real. "But how will the video, which was shown in the press conference, be proven as authentic?" he asked.
"The report says that the audio of the video was recorded separately. During the press conference, the video also had subtitles. It seems like someone has tampered with the video," the chief justice observed.
The attorney general told the bench that a forensic examination of judge Malik's "objectionable video" had been carried out but said that it would be "very difficult" to ascertain the authenticity of the clip that was shown in Maryam's press conference, because it was taken from YouTube.
Justice Khosa said that experts should be consulted to find out if a forensic examination of the video can be done.
Judge Malik's appointment
Chief Justice Khosa also noted that as per the interim report, Nasir Janjua, one of the main suspects in the case, had said he had been instrumental in the judge's appointment. The chief justice asked if the individual who had taken the final decision to appoint judge Malik had come forward, to which the attorney general responded in the negative. He told the top court that Malik had been posted to the accountability court on March 13, 2018.
"This would mean that after the Panama Papers verdict [was issued in July 2017], the government at the time had appointed judge Arshad Malik," the chief justice observed.
The chief justice then inquired if any complaint, saying that the video was being used to someone's benefit, had been submitted. The attorney general answered in the negative.
"This video can only benefit someone if it is produced [as evidence] in a case," Justice Khosa remarked.
The attorney general said that neither Tariq Mahmood nor Janjua, the "two important characters" in the scandal, were in the country. He added that "everything cannot be said in an open court".
'Judge Malik's behaviour shamed all judges'
The top judge also asked why Malik had not been relieved of his duties and sent back to Lahore until now, stating: "By not sending Arshad Malik to Lahore, [he] is being provided protection."
The attorney general said that Malik had been stopped from leaving due to the ongoing investigation.
"What kind of a judge visits a person he has convicted? The judge's behaviour has caused shame to all [other] judges," Justice Khosa said.
"Why are you taking this matter lightly? The judge himself is admitting he had connections with that family.
"We can look into the matter, as far as his [Malik's] character is concerned. You [the AG] investigate if a forensic examination of the video can be carried out," Justice Khosa said.
Video leak case
Maryam had in July come out with explosive claims regarding the accountability judge who convicted and sentenced her father Nawaz Sharif in the Al Azizia corruption case. She had aired a video at the press conference where she made those claims and said that the entire judicial process had been severely compromised.
The video in question had shown the accountability judge who sentenced Nawaz Sharif to prison in the Al Azizia reference, judge Arshad Malik, allegedly speaking to a PML-N supporter about the case.
Following her press conference, other PML-N leaders had also accused judge Malik of delivering the verdict "under pressure". The judge, however, denied being under any pressure, making counter allegations against Nawaz Sharif and the PML-N for "bribing and threatening" him.
Amid deepening political and judicial crises, the Islamabad High Court, after consultation with the apex court, had removed the accountability court judge on July 12, following which the Law Ministry had temporarily barred Arshad Malik from working.