LAHORE: An inquiry report that led to removal of Judge Arshad Malik from service on charges of misconduct says the judicial officer failed to prove that he acted under “duress” because of sympathisers of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif whom he convicted in one of the two National Accountability Bureau (NAB) references.
The 13-page inquiry report, also available with Dawn, says: “There appears to have been no evidence that the accused officer went in fear of death or serious bodily injury, nor was any attempt made to show that the accused officer could not escape from the persons concerned.”
Justice Sardar Ahmad Naeem of the Lahore High Court had held the inquiry assigned by the LHC’s seven-member administration committee.
The judge had recommended imposition of a major penalty on (now former) district & sessions judge Arshad Malik, who during his posting as presiding judge of an Islamabad accountability court convicted Mr Sharif in Al-Azizia reference. He had acquitted the ex-premier in the Flagship reference filed by the NAB.
Record shows the judge was always accessible to Nawaz Sharif’s sympathisers, it says
The committee in its July 3 meeting approved the removal of the judge from service in the light of the inquiry report.
The report further says record established the acquaintance of the judge and his frequent meetings with individuals — Mehar Nasir, Nasir Janjua and Nasir Butt (the alleged sympathisers of Mr Sharif) — and that they always had certain demands concerning the accountability references. The record proved that the judge was always accessible to them, it says.
It is also a fact that the judge, even after the decisions in the references, visited “Jati Umra’’ and met Nawaz Sharif as well as his son Hussain Nawaz when the former had gone to Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah.
As per the judge’s written defence, Nasir Butt met him for the preparation of grounds of appeal against the sentence in Al-Azizia reference.
“The accused officer had gone with his family to perform Umrah but once again Nasir Butt established contact with the accused officer and the accused officer met Hussain Nawaz Sharif in Madina, which reflected that it was not a meeting by chance or by the way but was a pre-planned meeting,” says the report.
It notes that the judge in his written defence said he was offered Rs500 million by Hussain Nawaz for tendering resignation. The accused officer also admitted that he had acquaintance with Mian Muhammad Tariq, maker of the fabricated video, during his posting in Multan until 2003.
The plea of duress is based upon “blackmailing” on account of an objectionable video film of the judge and serious threats extended by Nasir Butt etc as highlighted by his affidavit and the written defence but the judge never communicated to the authority about such blackmailing or intimidation either orally or in black & white, adds the report.
“The accused officer led no evidence in rebuttal that whatever done by him was a result of intimidation or duress,” it holds, adding the judicial officer took inconsistent pleas as in his press statement he claimed to have been blackmailed but on the other hand he claimed that the decision of the references was free of any influence, coercion or threats.
It further observes, “The accused has not established through some evidence that he was so terrorised that he acted entirely against his will. It means he admits that he has committed the crime but prays to be excused from the punishment for the consequences of crime by the reason of duress.”
The inquiry judge rules, “I am satisfied that the defence (of) duress has not been established and in circumstances, the charge of misconduct is proved.”
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz had accused judge Malik of convicting Sharif in Al-Azizia reference under duress.
On July 6, 2019 PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz had presented the secretly recorded video clips of judge Malik at a press conference. She had claimed that in the video the judge admitted before Nasir Butt that he convicted Sharif unjustly as there was immense pressure on him.
The inquiry against the judge has not discussed or taken into account the videos presented at the PML-N’s press conference.
Judge Malik was simply charge-sheeted for violating the judges’ code of conduct and was removed from service under Rule 4 (b) of the Punjab Civil Servants (Efficiency & Discipline) Rules 1999.
The main charges of misconduct include issuing a press statement without permission of the authority concerned and privately communicating with parties in a pending case.
Published in Dawn, July 12th, 2020