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August 20, 2017

IHC completes proceedings against judge on bribe charge

ISLAMABAD: In a major development, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) has completed disciplinary proceedings against an Additional District and Sessions Judge (ADSJ) Pervezul Qadir Memon, who allegedly received Rs5 million for acquitting 'Axact' Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Shoaib Ahmed Sheikh and 26 accomplices in a fake degrees case.

As per information, at the end of last month, Memon was provided an opportunity of hearing with the IHC Chief Justice, Justice Muhammad Anwar Khan Kasi, where he denied allegations of illegal gratification. The IHC is soon expected to announce the decision in this matter. It is to mention here that an IHC bench comprising Justice Aamer Farooq on June 19 had dismissed Memon’s petition saying that he admitted receipt of illegal gratification before a departmental promotion committee (DPC) to the tune of Rs05million for acquitting Axact officials.

The IHC bench had declared Memon’s petition as non-maintainable on the ground that the petitioner still got a remedy available with him to file a departmental representation, and show-cause notices cannot be assailed before a court. Prior to the said decision an IHC DPC comprising Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui and Jusitce Mohsin Akhtar Kayani in the matter of Memon had observed that the “latter (Memon) is reportedly involved in corrupt practice in the case of Axact decided by him and also in some other matters related to land grabbers etc. These issues require further consideration.”

According to the IHC show-cause notice, Memon admitted receiving Rs05 million as illegal gratification for acquitting the Axact fake degree scandal accused Shoaib Ahmad Shaikh and 26 others accomplices. Memon was suspended by the IHC administration on June 7 alleging illegal gratification. On the basis of DPC’s observations, first an office order, and later a show-cause notice was issued to Memon on June 9 that he assailed before the IHC calling illegal and unlawful.

Memon’s petition, through which he had assailed show-cause notices, was argued in the court by Hafiz Arfat Ahmed Chaudhry as counsel. While talking to The News, Advocate Chaudhry said that his client has not only denied allegations, but he was seeking formal inquiry into the matter. Whereas, the IHC is insisting that his confessional statement was enough in this regard. The counsel said that no formal inquiry has been conducted in this regard, but disciplinary proceedings completed on the basis of a confessional statement that Memon had also denied.

Memon, in his reply to the show-cause notices had vehemently denied the allegations describing these baseless. The ADSJ, in his reply, had said that the show-cause notice was issued to him on June 9, 2017, without any documentary evidence/incriminating material.

On October 31, 2016, in the case of Axact, the matter was decided on merit, and during the entire proceedings of the trial, no complaint of any nature, whatsoever, was filed by the prosecution against his conduct, Memon had said. 

The Axact case came into spotlight in May 2015 when the New York Times published a report claiming the company was running a diploma mill, sold fake diplomas and degrees online through hundreds of fictitious schools/universities. 

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) then registered an enquiry on May 19, 2015, M/s Axact Ltd, Islamabad region, for preparing and selling degrees of fake online educational institutions with fake accreditation bodies, enticing innocent people through impersonation as student councilors within Pakistan and abroad. Consequently, a raid was conducted on Axact’s DHA office. 

It is to mention here that the FIA has filed an appeal before the IHC against the acquittal of Shoaib Sheikh and others while saying that ADSJ Memon ignored sufficient incriminating material and acquitted the accused persons. The FIA filed its appeal under Section 417 Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC). An FIR was lodged against all the respondents on June 7, 2015, under sections 419, 420, 468, 471, 473, 109/34 and Section 4 of anti-Money laundering Act 2010.

The FIA appeal is pending adjudication before Justice Athar Minallah of the IHC. On some previous hearing, a deputy attorney general (DAG) had told the court that  a senior executive of Axact Umair Hamid, who pleaded guilty before a USA court, was a prosecution witness of the FIA. 

Narrating the incident of raid on Axact's DHA office, the FIA, in its appeal, said during an
on the spot interview, Regional Head Col (retd) Jameel Ahmad, Lt Col (retd) M Younis and other officials of M/s Axact could not provide plausible justification regarding their online fast track prior learning assessment (PLA) education operation.

Statements of the some of the employees clearly showed that their sale agents were impersonating as highly qualified student councilors of the fraudulent, non-existent, fictitious educational institutes, pretending being in the USA as they used UAN numbers of the United States of America and persuaded the prospective student to deposit huge amounts of money in the off shore accounts operated by Axact in lieu with online degrees/ certificates/ diplomas and the attestation/legalisation from different government bodies.