RE - A division bench of the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday issued notice to National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for next week on the appeal and bail petition filed by Sohail Zia Butt, former MPA and father of PML(N) MNA Umar Sohail Zia, against the three years conviction awarded to him in absentia by accountability court number 5 Lahore on June 21, 2001 in a criminal reference number 16/2001.
The bench of Justice Ch Iftikhar Hussain and Justice Mazahar Ali Akbar also condoned the delay of about nine years which earlier hindered Butt from moving the appellate court against his conviction under the law of limitation.
The accountability court had re-invoked the 2001 conviction against Butt on September 3 last when he was already in NAB custody following his arrest from near Kalma Chowk on September 1 against the warrants issued on January 12, 2001 by accountability court, for his non appearance despite repeated notices.
While giving Butt to NAB custody for two days physical on September 2 last, the court in view of his cardiac problem, had committed him to hospital for his medical check-up. However the next day the court pressed into service the conviction already handed down to Butt in absentia.
The reference filed during the regime of Pervez Musharraf accused Butt of 'embezzling Rs two million which he allegedly received from National Industrial Finance Corporation (NIFC) under a deal to get Ahmad Mansion, The Mall, evacuated from the illegal occupants which he failed to honour. On the complaint of the Executive Officer of the Corporation, the reference was framed against Butt by the NAB.
Pleading the matter for Butt, advocate Ehtasham Qadir said before the court that his client was facing no charges of corruption which fell in the ambience of NAB law.
He said it was known to everyone that Sohail Zia Butt was not in the country since May 13, 2000 as such no question of his receiving the notice or appearance before the court and whatever reports with respect to him were prepared by the NAB in that course were unauthentic and bogus and aimed at victimising him.
He said the alleged contract was between the two parties and any breach thereto did not amount to corruption or embezzlement of public money.
Hence the conviction as well as arrest warrants of his client were void of legal strength. Questioning bonafide of the NAB reference and conviction thereon, he said, his client has been in Pakistan over the last two and half years and attended a number of public events and took part in the election campaign of his son, but the NAB authorities did not take action against him following the warrants in question and now have acted with malafide intention.
Countering delay of over nine years about filing the present appeal against the conviction, he contended with reference to the Supreme Court judgments that, when the decision by the lower court was in nullity of the law, delay in filing of the appeal against it could be condoned. He further argued that when the NAB Court had been informed about the return of his client, it could only ask him to furnish the surety bonds and face the trial without sending him to judicial remand.
For the NAB advocate Mian Muhammad Bashir argued for shifting the appellant from the hospital to jail and the court left the matter to the report of doctors on the state of health of the convict/appellant.