Supreme Court ruling striking down amendments to NAB law challenged

Petition filed in wake of apex court ruling on Practice and Procedure Act 2023

Abdul Qayyum Siddiqui
A general view of the Supreme Court of Pakistan building in the evening hours, in Islamabad, April 7, 2022. — Reuters
A general view of the Supreme Court of Pakistan building in the evening hours, in Islamabad, April 7, 2022. — Reuters

  • Petition filed in wake of SC ruling on Practice and Procedure Act 2023.
  • Petitioner, who was not part of hearings, says he is "condemned unheard".
  • Plea challenges Sept 15 ruling which struck down changes to NAB law.

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court's September 15 ruling that struck down some amendments made to the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO), 1999, was challenged on Friday.

In the wake of the top court's verdict upholding the Practice and Procedure Act 2023, Abdul Jabbar — through his counsel Farooq H Naek — filed a plea in the apex court, calling for setting aside the ruling on the NAB law.

The Supreme Court had in a majority decision of 10-5 on October 11, upheld the law formulated to regulate the affairs of the top court, but noted that although the right to appeal provided against a decision taken under Article 184(3) will not be applicable retrospectively, it will apply to those ruling which were issued after the law came into effect.

The NAB amendments case was related to public importance; thus, it fell under the original jurisdiction of the superior court i.e. Article 184(3) of the Constitution.

Parliament passed the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Act, 2023, in April, and the apex court struck down the amendments to the NAB law in September, allowing the right to appeal.

In his petition, Jabbar stated that he had "condemned unheard" but mentioned that although he was not a party to the case earlier, the court had also not issued a notice to him in this regard.

The petitioner also said that the court should exercise its jurisdiction under Article 184(3) "sparingly" and that the conditions precedent for the exercise of this original jurisdiction is "not fulfilled in this case".

He claimed that the September 15 judgment was issued "without considering the fundamental principles of parliamentary democracy as well as laid down a principle for striking out legislation".

"The [...] judgment has declared the provisions of the amending Acts of the Parliament on the policy consideration and contrary to the ‘will of the people’ which the later scribed through the subject amendments," the petition read.

Jabbar also mentioned that through the judgment, the court assumed the position of being a ‘legislator’ and ‘policy maker’, which is beyond the scope of powers of the Supreme Court under Article 184(3).

"The [...] order suffers from errors floating on the surface of the record and is liable to be reviewed," the petitioner added.

Concluding the plea, Jabbar prayed that the top court set aside its September 15 ruling and provide "any other relief" that the superior court "deems fit and proper".

The verdict

A three-member bench of the Supreme Court in a majority 2-1 verdict had approved Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan's petition challenging amendments made to the country's accountability laws during the tenure of the previous Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM)-led government.

The three-member bench, headed by CJP Umar Ata Bandial, and comprising Justice Mansoor Ali Shah and Justice Ijazul Ahsan, held more than 50 hearings on PTI chief Khan's petition against the amendments and reserved the judgment on the hearing on September 5.

In the majority verdict, the Supreme Court restored graft cases against public office holders that were closed down following the amendments.

The apex court ordered restoring all graft cases worth less than Rs500 million that were closed down against the political leaders belonging to different political parties and public office holders and declared the amendments void.

Furthermore, the court directed the NAB to return all records related to cases to relevant courts within seven days.

The verdict on Khan's appeal further added that the NAB amendments under question affected the rights of the public listed in the Constitution.

The verdict has some far-reaching consequences as the striking down of the amendments would mean that references against some of the country's political bigwigs will once again land in the accountability courts.

These include the Toshakhana reference against Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Supremo Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan Peoples Party Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari and former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, along with the LNG reference against former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and the rental power reference against former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf.