Tuesday Oct 04, 2022
The Supreme Court will hold hearings on PTI Chairman Imran Khan's plea against the amendments made to the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) 1999, on a daily basis, Cheif Justice Umar Ata Bandial said on Tuesday.
A three-member bench of the apex court, headed by CJ Bandial and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsen and Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, resumed the hearing on Imran Khan's plea.
Khan, through its lawyer Khwaja Haris, had filed an application under Rule 6 of SC Rules 180 for the placing on record of documents in the petition, challenging the NAB Ordinance 1999 amendments.
It informed the apex court that the amendments to NAB law have benefited Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Hamza Shehbaz, former prime ministers Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani and Raja Pervez Ashraf, the incumbent speaker of the National Assembly, and Senator Saleem Mandviwalla.
At the outset of the hearing, the chief justice inquired Haris, PTI's lawyer, that how much time will he need to complete the arguments.
Responding to the query, the lawyer said he will complete the arguments in two days.
Besides several corruption cases returning to NAB, pending NAB inquiries have also been suspended, Haris informed the court.
The lawyer said that the federal government had assured the court it would submit a response at this hearing.
"The court hasn't received the Centre's response yet, while the attorney general isn't present [at the hearing] as well," CJ Bandial said.
Meanwhile, Haris maintained that NAB's stance is not on the record.
"We should know if NAB will maintain a different stance," he said.
At this, CJ Bandial remarked that the NAB officials had said that they will follow the attorney general's stance.
However, Justice Hassan said that NAB gave a verbal statement and there is nothing in writing.
"We only have to see the basic rights and violation of the Constitution," the CJ interjected.
Later, the court adjourned the hearing till tomorrow (October 5).
The counsel stated in the plea that, since Sept 1, 2022, a large number of references pending with the accountability courts throughout Pakistan have been returned to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in the light of the amendments which have been impugned in the titled petition, the accountability courts no longer have jurisdiction to try these cases.
He submitted that the references thus returned pertain to offences falling inter alia under Sections 9(a)(i), (ii), (iii), (iv), (v), (vi),(ix),(x),(xii), of the NAO, 1999, and have been so returned by invoking provisions of inter alia sections 1(2), 2, 4(a)-(g), 5(o) and 9(a)(vi) of NAO. 1999.
“Additionally, there are a large number of references (more than 90 percent of pending references, if not all) which are also hit by the impugned amendments, but have not yet been disposed of returned by the accountability courts,” the counsel submitted
He further informed the court that there are numerous (if not all) pending enquiries and investigations which have been or are in the process of being similarly wound up in the light of the provisions introduced to the NAO by the impugned amendments.
Moreover, he also submitted that ex-president Asif Ali Zardari has recently sought a long adjournment from the Accountability Court, No. III, Islamabad, as he intends to file a fresh application ‘in pursuance of the newly amended NAB Act, 2022’, in addition to an earlier application filed by him under the previously amended law.
The counsel informed the court that during the financial years 2018–19, 2019–2020, and 20–21, the NAB had, in terms of incurring expenses for inquiring into, investigating, and prosecuting references pertaining to offences falling under the NAO, 1999, utilised a sum of Rs3.9, 9.0, and 5.1 billion, respectively, i.e. a total of Rs18 billion for filing and prosecuting these cases.
And now, pursuant to the impugned amendments to the law, this entire sum of Rs18 billion of public money has gone down the drain, while, simultaneously, all such references pending against the former and incumbent holders of public office, and their associates, aiders and abettors, as well as private persons, on charges of misappropriation of hundreds of billions of rupees belonging to the people of Pakistan, have been brought to naught”, the counsel submitted
The PTI further submitted that the bulk of the references filed by the NAB and which were or are pending with the accountability courts are in respect of offences under sections 9(a)(v), 9(a)(vi) and 9(a)(ix) of the NAO, 1999, and these are the offences that have been radically affected, both substantively and as regards prerequisites for proving the same, by the impugned amendments.
And this has primarily been accomplished by amending or substituting sections 2, 4(a) to 4(g), and 4(3), 5(b), (c), (da), (o), and (q), 9(a) (v) and (vi), 9(a) (vii), 9(a) (ix), 14, 16, 19, and 25(e), provisos to 25 (b), 26 and 31-A of the NAO, 1999.