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February 17, 2018

Axact case: Judge dismissed in cash-for-bail scandal, what next?

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February 17, 2018

ISLAMABAD: As Islamabad High Court (IHC) has dismissed an additional district & sessions judge charged in cash-for-bail scandal in a landmark decision, whether the case closes here or any further action will be taken against the bribe-giver and bribe-taker remains to be seen.

However, the retired judges and legal experts agree on making them horrible examples as the key accused in Axact fake degree scandal, Shoaib Sheikh, has tried to corrupt the judiciary and the dismissed judge has betrayed the trust of public at large through this criminal act. Not only the bail of the accused can be cancelled, retrial of the case can also be ordered in addition to action against the judge and the owner of Axact.

The IHC on Thursday removed Pervaizul Qadir Memon, an additional district and sessions judge, after it was proved he received Rs5 million to acquit Bol TV’s CEO, Shoaib Sheikh, in the Axact case. The sources privy to the case say the judge was under watch of higher judiciary for his questionable rulings for quite sometime and was finally brought to a position where he confessed to accepting bribe.

It has been learnt that the promised reward for relief was more than what had been pocketed. The remaining chunk (Rs15 million) was to be paid during the judge’s visit to a western country.

Justice (retd) Nasir Aslam Zahid said that an FIR can be registered against the judge and Shoaib Sheikh for committing the offense and for initiation of criminal proceedings leading to imprisonment besides recovery of bribed money from the judge. The dismissal from service was administrative decision of the court and further actions must follow, he said, adding the retrial of case can be ordered.

Justice (retd) Wajihuddin Ahmed also suggested an exemplary punishment. No matter one is politician, bureaucrat, judge or a businessman, their lifestyle should match with the sources of living. Anything beyond that would bring them under question and require accountability.

A legal expert who doesn’t want to be named said IHC has powers to proceed further in this case. A complaint may be lodged with the FIA against this occurrence for further investigation of the both: the bribe-giver and bribe-taker. That will result in the recovery of bribed money from the judge in addition to his imprisonment up to 14 years. No less punishment Shoaib Sheikh deserves for an attempt to corrupt the judiciary in order to get a favorable verdict.

Meanwhile, Federal Investigation Agency can move IHC for the cancellation of Shoaib’s bail granted in return of money instead of merit, said the expert. Also, IHC which has dismissed the judge can order retrial of the case right from the framing of charges as the entire process of relief to the accused party has become disputed after this scandal.

However what action is taken will become clear in the coming days as any such move is going to set a precedent that judiciary is setting its house in order. Some years back, a unique scandal brought to surface by Ansar Abbasi wherein scandalous similarities and some other controversies were reported relating to the judgments of the Rawalpindi Accountability Courts. Handed down by the Accountability Court No-III of Rawalpindi in 2011, the Cotecna judgment was almost the replica of the SGS case order issued by the Accountability Court No II, Rawalpindi.

However, it was altogether ignored by both the judiciary and the NAB. The issue not only related to the alleged serious misconduct of the judges involved but also pertained to the finality of the cases decided in favour of the influential accused in a dubious manner.

Nevertheless, the judges concerned were allowed to retire without any punishment along with pension benefits, and the corruption cases decided scandalously were never retried, notwithstanding the fact that the Lahore High Court’s inquiry had proved serious wrongs.

Inquiry against the judges concerned was dropped only for the reason that they had reached the age of superannuation. It not only helped them to go scot free but more seriously it also made the scandalous judgments as “past and closed transaction” because no one has as yet set aside the judgments for retrial.

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