SC directs SHC, IHC to decide pending Axact cases

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Friday directed the Sindh High Court (SHC) and Islamabad High Court (IHC) to decide the pending appeals against the acquittal of the accused of Axact fake degree scam.

A two-member SC bench, comprising Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar and Justice Ijazul Ahsan, directed the SHC to form a two-member bench next week and decide the pending appeal within 15 days.

The court directed the IHC to decide the government’s appeal against the acquittal of the accused in three weeks.

The court directed a trial court in Karachi to decide on the prosecution’s plea seeking cancellation of the accused bail in two weeks. The court also directed the sub-ordinate courts to suspend bails of the accused if they did not cooperate with them.

When the court resumed the hearing on the suo motu notice of the Axact fake degree scam, the chief justice directed to place the name of Axact’s chief executive officer (CEO) Shoaib Sheikh and six other accused on the Exit Control List (ECL).

Senior journalists Sami Ibrahim and Javed Soomro, who were present in the courtroom, requested the court not to place the name of Shoaib Sheikh on the ECL. The court accepted their request and directed Shoaib Sheikh to submit a written guarantee that he would not leave the country and also hand over his passport to the SHC. Shoaib Sheikh is also the owner of Bol Network.

Appearing on notice, Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) Director General Bashir Ahmad Memon informed the court that Axact operated websites of 330 universities which even did not have their campuses. He said Axact was not affiliated with these universities.

He said Axact generated about 70 per cent of its revenue from these universities. He said Axact, which claimed to being a software export company, also had nine other business units. He said one could get the degree from Axact within hours by paying around Rs 0.5 million. To a court query, he said Axact had its own accreditation platform.

He said a webpage has been created by Axact for the purpose of accreditation. The chief justice asked the FIA head that Axact had been doing this illegal business since 2006 to 2015 and hundreds and thousands of people had been defrauded and looted. “However, the FIA has been sleeping,” he said. He said that FIA had taken notice of the scam in 2015 when the matter was highlighted by the international media.

Appearing on notice, IHC registrar told the court that the case of one of the Axact accused has been fixed for February 22 before a single-bench of the IHC comprising Justice Athar Minallah.

The chief justice then directed that Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb be also included in the bench and the matter be heard by a two-judge bench.

The chief justice inquired that on what grounds the IHC had acquitted the accused. He also inquired about the judge of trial court, who was alleged that he had taken bribes from the accused and granted them bails.

The IHC registrar stated that was Additional District and Sessions Judge Pervezul Qadir Memon and he had been suspended. He said that his case was before the IHC and a committee of the IHC would hear his case on February 12 (Monday). The chief justice then directed the IHC registrar that the case be heard on daily basis and its daily progress report be submitted with the Supreme Court’s registrar office.

The chief justice said that the judge seemed to be a relative of the FIA head. The FIA head Bashir Memon then stated that the judge was his relative. “However, it is his individual act. It is yet to be ascertained whether he is guilty or not,” he said. The chief justice appreciated Memon that he did not hide and admitted in the open court that the accused judge was his relative.

During the hearing, the chief justice expressed dismay over the absence o Peshawar High Court (PHC) registrar, who did not appear despite the notice. He also took suo motu notice of the fake degree case in the PHC and directed the FIA to file an appeal in the case.

Some former employees of Bol Television told the court that about 45 people from Islamabad and Rawalpindi and dozens in other cities of the country had not been paid since 2015.

Taking notice on the application of Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA), who highlighting irregularities in Axact businesses and its linkages with Labbaik Media House, which operates Bol, the court directed Shoaib Shaikh to submit his reply on the PBA’s application.

The court directed the former employees of Bol to submit an application containing narration of their ordeals. The court held that the cases will be decided by hearing both the sides. Later, the court adjourned the hearing for two weeks.

Published in Daily Times, February 10th 2018.