Sweet verdict soon, says CJP as SC reserves judgement on NAB law

Chief Justice Bandial says action should be taken whether it is corruption, smuggling or illegal transfer of money

ISLAMABAD  -  The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Tuesday reserved its judgement on the petition of Pa­kistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman against the amendments in Na­tional Accountability Ordinance (NAO), 1999.

A three-member bench of the apex court headed by Chief Jus­tice of Pakistan (CJP) Justice Umar Ata Ban­dial and comprising Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan and Justice Syed Man­soor Ali Shah conduct­ed hearing of former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s petition against the amendments in the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO), 1999. 

After hearing the par­ties’ counsels the CJP said, “Something short and sweet should come out, that may be done soon.”

At the outset of the hearing, Haris contended be­fore the court: “A lot of pend­ing cases have been returned after the NAB amendments.” At this, CJP Bandial inquired if there were any sections in the amendments under which cas­es could be referred to anoth­er relevant forum. “After these amendments, a lot of NAB’s work has come to an end,” he remarked.

The lawyer then replied that as per the amendments, an in­vestigation would be conduct­ed, after the review of which the cases could be sent to oth­er forums. He also informed the court that after the changes to the law, neither did the NAB have the authority to deal with the cases nor to send them to other relevant forums.

Here, Justice Shah noted that a law was not needed to for­ward cases to other forums, saying, “If there was a murder in the NAB’s office, the matter will [automatically] go to the relevant forum.” “Will definite­ly ask about the matter of not getting the authority to send cases to other forums,” he add­ed. Here, Imran’s counsel in­formed the court that written requests have been submitted to the court.

At this point during the hear­ing, the CJP asked Haris if he had read the NAB report sub­mitted to the Supreme Court, referring to an updated report the NAB furnished last week detailing the return of corrup­tion references since January 1. “The NAB has detailed the rea­sons for references returned till May [this year]. The reasons for the return of references indi­cate where the law is leaning to­wards,” the top judge remarked.

Noting that it was now on re­cord that references against whom had been returned till May this year, CJP Bandial re­called that one amendment to section 23 (transfer of proper­ty void) of the NAO was made in May while another in June this year. “The references re­turned before May are with the NAB till today,” he stated, asking who would answer these ques­tions on the NAB’s behalf. To this, Special Prosecutor Sattar Awan informed the court that the additional prosecutor gen­eral “will be reaching the court shortly”.

Here, while admitting that defending oneself was easier under the NAB amendments, Haris contended that his client was not taking advantage of them and recalled he had told the NAB the same. “The state­ment submitted to the NAB is also part of the court record,” he added.

Chief Justice Bandial said that the NAB report indicat­ed that there were 36 pend­ing references in Karachi and 21 in Lahore. The NAB prose­cutor clarified that those refer­ences included details of ongo­ing cases unaffected by recent amendments.

CJP Bandial noted a case in­volving an individual named Tariq Awan that had been sub-judice for eight years. The prosecutor explained that those cases were related to illegal land allotment.

The chief justice inquired if the returned cases were still pending with NAB, to which the prosecutor replied in the affir­mative. “In 2022, we received 386 NAB references back,” the prosecutor informed the court.

The court instructed the At­torney General (AG) to provide a written report on this matter. However, the additional attor­ney general apologised to the court for the AG’s absence, cit­ing that he was currently out of the country.

At this point during the hear­ing, Justice Ahsan observed, “After the amendments, the pending investigations and in­quiries have gone to the mortu­ary. Till the mechanism for the transfer of inquiries is formed, the public’s rights will be di­rectly affected.”

Imran’s counsel then stated that “elected representatives also have to undergo the test of Section 62(1)(f) (of the Consti­tution) and they use their pow­ers as an Ameen”.

Here, Justice Shah noted that army officers had been excused from the NAB ordinance, to which Haris responded that the petition “had not challenged the amendments pertaining to army officers” as the Army Act 1952 already had provi­sions to deal with corruption cases against military officials. “Punishments are also present against civil officers and pub­lic office holders,” Justice Shah responded, to which Haris said that under the civil servants’ law, only institutional action was to be taken and not a crim­inal complaint against corrup­tion offences.

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