ISLAMABAD     -   The Supreme Court on Friday wrapped up a set of petitions on a video leak scandal involving former accountability court judge Arshad Malik.

“We find that it may not be an appropriate stage for this court to interfere in the matter of the relevant video and its effects” since the video may have relevance to a criminal appeal presently sub judice before the Islamabad High Court, the judges said in the detailed verdict.

The 25-page verdict, authored by Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, noted that five main issues needed to be attended by the top court; among them was the possible impact of the video — if proven to be authentic — on the ruling by judge Malik in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills corruption reference that had put away former premier Nawaz Sharif last year.

Last month, at an explosive press conference, Nawaz’s daughter and PML-N leader Maryam had shared a video containing an alleged confession by judge Malik that he had been pressurised and blackmailed to convict her father in the Al-Azizia reference.

Judge Malik, however, denied the allegations.

“The relevant video cannot be of any legal benefit to Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif unless it is properly produced before the Islamabad High Court in the pending appeal, its genuineness is established and then the same is proved in accordance with the law for it to be treated as evidence in the case,” the verdict read.

“It must never be lost sight of that the standard of proof required in a criminal case is beyond reasonable doubt and any realistic doubt about an audio tape or video not being genuine may destroy its credibility and reliability,” the judgment notes.

Judge Malik, in Dec 2018, had handed the ousted premier seven years in jail in the Al-Azizia reference. He, however, had acquitted him in a second reference related to Flagship Investments.

Nawaz is currently incarcerated at Kot Lakhpat jail while his sentence in the Avenfield corruption reference — which he was convicted in on July 6 last year — has been suspended.

The petitions filed in the Supreme Court by Ishtiaq Ahmed Mirza, Sohail Akhtar and Tariq Asad had sought the constitution of a probe committee or a judicial commission to look into matter.

A three-member bench of the apex court, comprising Chief Justice Khosa, Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed and Justice Umar Ata Bandial, heard the petitions.

Stating that this was not an appropriate stage for SC to intervene in the matter, the verdict noted that “a criminal investigation is already being conducted into the matter by the Federal Investigation Agency, some other offences or illegalities under some other laws referred to by the learned Attorney-General might also entail inquiries or investigations by the competent agencies or fora and any probe into the matter by a Commission to be constituted by the Government or by this Court may end up only with an opinion which may have no relevance or admissibility in the relevant appeal pending before the Islamabad High Court, Islamabad. In this view of the matter, all these petitions are disposed of with the observations made above”.

About the controversial judge, the SC judgment observed that “his (Malik’s) admitted conduct emerging from that press release and the affidavit stinks and the stench of such stinking conduct has the tendency to bring a bad name to the entire judiciary as an institution”.

“His sordid and disgusting conduct has made the thousands of honest, upright, fair and proper Judges in the country hang their heads in shame.”

“The learned Attorney-General has assured the Court that the said Judge shall be repatriated to the Lahore High Court, Lahore immediately and we expect that after his repatriation appropriate departmental disciplinary proceedings shall be initiated against him by the Lahore High Court, Lahore forthwith,” stated the judgment.

As the video controversy continued to make news with Maryam releasing two more video clips “in support” of the first one, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) removed judge Malik from his post in July. On Thursday, the IHC repatriated him to his parent department, the Lahore High Court (LHC), so that disciplinary proceedings could be initiated against him.

Malik’s repatriation to LHC on Thursday came on the heels of the SC’s August 20 hearing in which the court had termed the conduct of the judge “shameful” and asked why the law ministry had not transferred him back to the LHC.

The apex court had observed that it appeared that the law ministry was giving refuge to the controversial judge.

The top court had reserved its verdict after an assurance was extended by Attorney General Anwar Mansoor that Malik would be repatriated to the LHC.

During August 20 hearing, CJP Khosa also inquired whether a petition had been filed in court to obtain any legal benefit, to which the attorney general said no petition had been filed.

The chief justice remarked that the video would be of use for the release of Nawaz Sharif when a petition is filed. He added that it remained to be seen if a forensic audit could be carried out on a copy of the video and if this was possible for a YouTube video.

On July 6, Maryam opened a Pandora’s box with a startling claim that the judge “confessed” he had been “pressurised and blackmailed” to convict her father in the Al-Azizia reference. A video containing the judge’s alleged confession during his conversation with a ‘sympathiser’ of the PML-N, Nasir Butt, was screened during a hurriedly called presser at the party’s provincial headquarters in Model Town.

The next day, in a press release, the judge had denied being under any pressure, but admitted that Nasir Butt was an acquaintance.

Acting IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq summoned the accountability judge twice and then directed him to submit an affidavit to explain his position.

Judge Malik in his affidavit had said that he had been blackmailed by PML-N supporters because of an “immoral video” and admitted that he had met Nawaz at his Jati Umra residence and Hussain Nawaz in Saudi Arabia.

Justice Farooq decided to relieve Malik without conducting an inquiry since he was an official of the subordinate judiciary of the LHC. He directed the registrar office to write a letter to the law ministry regarding relieving judge Malik of his post and repatriating him to the parent department, the LHC.

Shortly after this decision was announced, Maryam called for the verdict in the Al Azizia reference against her father to be declared void.

Meanwhile, judge Malik lodged a complaint with the Federal Investigation Agency which arrested an accused namely Mian Tariq Mehmood on a charge of recording an “immoral video” of the judge.