‘LHC's Justice Ghural Ought To Have Recused Himself Instead Of Giving Protective Bail To Parvez Elahi’

‘LHC's Justice Ghural Ought To Have Recused Himself Instead Of Giving Protective Bail To Parvez Elahi’
LAHORE: The legal fraternity and constitutional experts have raised serious questions about the presence of Justice Asjad Javed Ghural on a bench hearing the bail petition of former Punjab chief minister, Chaudhry Parvez Elahi.

The court granted Elahi protective bail in the anti-corruption case against him until May 15, while he was given relief in the case filed under terrorism and other charges till May 4.

Justice Ghural’s family relations with Parvez Elahi

It is being widely alleged that Justice Ghural enjoys close ties, including family links, with Chaudhry Parvez Elahi spanning over some decades. The legal fraternity is appalled that Justice Ghural would still hear a case pertaining to Elahi, as it would constitute a serious breach of the judicial code of conduct.

Sources privy to this development confirmed to The Friday Times (TFT) that one of the cousins of Justice Ghural, Khalid Javed Asghar Ghural, served as provincial assembly member (MPA) twice on Pakistan Muslim League’s ticket, while his brother Ahsan Ghural was president of PMLQ UK, and recently joined PTI with Elahi.

“There are videos of Justice Ghural and his family members with Parvez Elahi, Moonis Elahi, Hussain Elahi and others, which clearly shows their conflict of interest. Justice Ghural should have recused himself from the bench,” sources maintained on condition of strict anonymity, since discussions on judges' conduct is a legally sensitive affair in Pakistan. But was it merely a coincidence that Elahi's case was placed before Justice Ghural?

Sources at the Lahore High Court (LHC) confided to TFT that it wasn’t a coincidence that the audio leaks of Elahi earlier with Abid Sulehri were made public. Elahi's conversations with Sulehri and others clearly showed how benches are being formed at the LHC, and how the son-in-law of a high-ranking judge - who also enjoys the family ties with Elahi since decades - is also involved in this "bench-fixing". All these links have been playing a part in supporting Elahi and formation of benches that favour him and PTI.

Justice Ghural’s "soft corner"

It is pertinent to mention that the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) booked former federal minister Moonis Elahi for alleged money laundering of Rs 720 million, but on October 3, 2022, Justice Ghural dismissed the money laundering case against Moonis Elahi, gave him a clean chit and ordered FIA to quash the complaint (FIR) against Moonis.

Insiders explained that in the first place, Justice Ghural shouldn’t have been part of a bench that was hearing a case against the Chaudhry's. “It seems that cases of Chaudhry Parvez Elahi and family were deliberately fixed before him, so that he could give them ‘undue favour’ and relief," a source purported.

Justice Ghural’s controversial decision

It is pertinent to mention that a bias in Justice Ghural's legal reasoning was also alleged in April 2021, when the judge announced Shehbaz Sharif's bail in open court, but then refused to sign the order, forcing a 1-1 tie in the LHC judgment.

“The matter was referred to the referee judge, who formed a new 3-member bench headed by Justice Ali Baqar Najafi and also comprising Justice Aalia Neelum and Justice Syed Shahbaz Ali Rizvi. This bench gave a unanimous verdict and all 3 judges disagreed with Justice Ghural's reasoning".

Blatant violation of Code of Conduct

Speaking to The Friday Times (TFT), Abdul Rauf Shakoori, a US-based corporate lawyer who specialises in white collar crimes and sanctions compliance, said it had become a trend in Pakistan for the judges of the superior judiciary to hardly care about their code of conduct.

Shakoori believes that the basic reason behind judges' blatant abuse of their code of conduct is the weak accountability system. Recently, it was noticed that despite severe allegations of a conflict of interest, and objection to their participation in the hearing proceedings, judges do not recuse themselves from hearing those case.

Shakoori recalled that in one of the news reports regarding a Supreme Court judge who was a lawyer for the Hyatt Towers consortium earlier, the judge did not bother to recuse himself from that case, despite the objection of the CDA, and ultimately decided in favor of his former client.

Subsequently, the same judge, despite the objection of the political parties, is a part of the bench hearing the Punjab election date petition.

Shakoori drew similarities with Mr. Justice Ghural’s brother, who was a ticket holder of the PMLQ and still has close ties with Parvez Elahi and family.

Despite this clear conflict of interest, Justice Ghural still became part of a 2-member bench which gave Elahi relief, disregarding vehement objections from political leaders and the legal fraternity.

Public confidence in judiciary shattered

“These gestures from the judges not only endanger the independence of the judiciary, they destroy the public confidence in the judiciary as misconduct attracts proceedings under Article 209 of the Constitution of Pakistan,” Shakoori said.

Speaking at a press conference, senior PMLN leader Ata Tarar said that a strange and idiosyncratic incident was witnessed at the LHC on Tuesday, when bail petitions of former CM Elahi were fixed in front of Justice Ghural, whose brother was a ticket holder in Elahi’s party. "It is an injustice of the highest order," Tarar exclaimed.

Tarar said that Justice Ghural had also served as Elahi's lawyer in the past, and was just like a family member of Elahi's.

“It is very unfortunate that they couldn’t find any other judge to hear Elahi's petition. Why don't they form the court at his home, and give him bail there,” Tarar asked.

He further maintained that it was very unfortunate that corruption and other cases against Elahi are fixed for adjudication before a judge who has remained in touch with Elahi and family for decades, and enjoys family terms with him.

“It would have been better that Elahi himself was made a judge of the high court, and then he could give a verdict in his own favor,” he concluded.

The writer is a senior correspondent at The Friday Times with a focus on politics, economy and militancy. He also hosts the Hassan Naqvi Show on Naya Daur.