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What price justice?

Corruption begets corruption. It is infectious, indeed highly contagious, and currently there is no known cure. The Axact case in the last year has probably done as much to tarnish the global image of Pakistan as anything else in that it had international ramifications that hit the headlines — and the courts in the United States. The case came to court in Pakistan as well, and the outcome was an acquittal for the principal accused, Shoaib Ahmed Shaikh, who was the CEO of Bol TV, a subsidiary of Axact. It now emerges that the presiding justice, Additional District and Sessions Judge Pervaizul Qadir Memon has admitted before the Islamabad High Court that he was in receipt of half a million rupees as a bribe to acquit the accused.

It appears that the matter came to light when the judge questioned why he had not been promoted and that those junior to him had. Matters went downhill from there. An office order issued by the Islamabad High Court on 9th June 2017 states that the judge admitted receiving the bribe before a Departmental Promotion Committee on the same date, and recommends that he be removed from service and require him to provide within 14 days why a major penalty should not be imposed upon him.

Stains on the escutcheon of the judiciary do not come bigger, or more difficult to erase, than this. There are missing details such as how the bribe came to be arranged; what is reasonable to assume is that there was more than two people, the judge and the defendant, involved. This is corruption at a high level within the justice system, and it taints the entire process, eroding trust and confidence and prompting something of a feeding frenzy across all media platforms within hours of the revelations. The message inevitably is that if a defendant has the resources then judges can be bought, and relatively cheaply at that. What price justice? Any price you can afford, seemingly.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 17th, 2017.

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