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Wednesday Jul 08 2020

CJP asks govt to form 120 new accountability courts for quick disposal of pending cases

Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed. — APP/File

ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed on Wednesday asked the government to establish 120 new accountability courts for the disposal of pending corruption references within three months.

CJP ordered the law secretary to set up new courts after getting approval from the authorities concerned.

A three-member bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed and comprising Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel and Justice Yahya Afridi, heard a case today regarding a delay in the trial of cases by the accountability courts, in light of Section 16 of the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999, requiring the wrapping up of NAB cases within 30 days.

The court, in its order, noted that five accountability courts were vacant in Pakistan, whereas 1,226 cases were pending.

The bench said no reason had been given as to why the vacant posts had not been filled up.

"We are unable to understand the logic behind the vacant posts for such a long time,” it said, adding that according to the law, accountability courts should announce decisions within 30 days.

“The courts [are] vacant for years and cases of that court remain pending," the court order stated.

The bench said the whole purpose of making of accountability law apparently seemed to be rendered futile if the courts were allowed to remain vacant.

The bench noted that the number of pending cases in the accountability courts demand more than a hundred judges/courts for dealing with and deciding these cases, as cases were being filed regularly and their numbers were also increasing while the numbers of courts were totally stagnant.

"In these circumstances, we direct the law secretary to immediately seek instructions from the government on proposal of creating at least 120 accountability courts in Pakistan and to fill-up such courts with the judges and distribute all pending cases among them so that these cases are decided at a fast pace and also in accordance with the time frame provided in the law," the court order stated.

The court said the civil miscellaneous application number 715 of 2020 filed by NAB showed that even cases dating back to 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006 onward were pending before the accountability courts and apparently there seems to be no valid justification as to why these cases were pending.

"In these circumstances, we expect that the law secretary after seeking instructions from the government shall immediately fill in all the vacancies of the accountability courts and this shall be done within a period of one week without fail otherwise the court shall take coercive action against the officials who are found defaulting in performing of their duties.

Further, the strength of the accountability courts all over Pakistan shall immediately be increased by the government in order to ensure that all the pending accountability cases came to their logical conclusion at a fast pace and at least within three months time," the order read.

"We may note that if such measures are not adopted by the government and NAB, the whole purpose of the law will stand vitiated which apparently is not the purpose of the legislature," it added.

The court directed for the relisting of the case after one week.

The court also sought suggestions from the NAB chairman for the expeditious disposal of pending references.

The court has also summoned the attorney general, prosecutor general, and law secretary for the next hearing.