LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) seems to be in no hurry to decide the fate of former Islamabad accountability court judge Arshad Malik, who was suspended over a video leak controversy, as an inquiry ordered against him by an administration committee five months ago is progressing at a snail’s pace.
The seven-member administration committee headed by LHC Chief Justice Sardar Muhammad Shamim Khan in its meeting on Aug 26 approved an inquiry against District and Sessions Judge Arshad Malik. Justice Sardar Ahmad Naeem of the LHC had been tasked with the inquiry. The PML-N had accused judge Malik of convicting former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in the Al-Azizia reference under duress. However, the judge had acquitted Mr Sharif of the charges in the Flagship Investments reference.
After PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz had released alleged video/audio clips of judge Malik at a press conference in July, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) had summoned him and directed him to submit an affidavit explaining his position.
In his affidavit, the judge had denied the party’s claim, saying he had been blackmailed by PML-N supporters through an “immoral video”. He also admitted to meeting with Mr Sharif at Jati Umra residence and Hussain Nawaz in Saudi Arabia.
Finally, the IHC on Aug 22 suspended and repatriated the judge to the LHC, his parent department, for further disciplinary proceedings.
A notification issued by the IHC registrar had said: “The disclosure and admission made by Mr Muhammad Arshad Malik, district & sessions judge/former judge accountability court-II Islamabad in a press release dated July 7, 2019 and the affidavit dated July 11, 2019, prima facie, constitute acts of misconduct and violation of the code of conduct, which warrant initiation of disciplinary proceedings against him.”
The LHC on Sept 14 made the judge an officer on special duty from the date of his suspension and posted him to the sessions court. D&SJ Malik had joined the district judiciary on Aug 1, 2000 and was promoted to the post of sessions judge on Sept 8, 2010. Being the 15th most senior sessions judge of Punjab, he is due to retire on May 24, 2022.
A source in the LHC establishment said that the initial notice to judge Malik had been issued by the inquiry judge, however, he had not been summoned in person so far as a mandatory procedure to conclude an inquiry. He claimed that no priority had been shown to conclude the inquiry against the judge, as the authorities were taking it like any routine inquiry.
The Federal Investigation Agency had also launched an inquiry into the video scandal and initially arrested three persons on charges of pressurising and blackmailing judge Malik. They were later exonerated by a judicial magistrate.
Lately, the agency revived the inquiry with notices issued to different leaders of the PML-N who had joined Maryam Nawaz at the July 6 press conference.
Published in Dawn, December 29th, 2019