ISLAMABAD: The trial of Finance Minister Ishaq Dar will resume on Wednesday, after the Islamabad High Court (IHC) rejected a plea to stop proceedings and dismissed a petition against Mr Dar’s indictment.

An IHC division bench consisting of Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb heard two identical petitions filed by Mr Dar against his ongoing trial in an Islamabad accountability court on Tuesday.

Last month, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) filed a reference against the finance minister for possessing assets beyond his known sources of income.

In his petition, Mr Dar had contended that he “appeared before the accountability court on Sept 25, 2017 when the copy of reference along with interim investigation report and documents appended with comprising 23 volumes were supplied to [him]”.

The petition stated: “On Sept 27, the petitioner filed an application before the learned respondent no.1 [accountability judge] for postponing of the framing of charges on the ground that the said charge should only be framed not earlier than seven days of supply of documents.”

Accountability Judge Mohammad Bashir has, after indicting Mr Dar, summoned two prosecution witnesses on Oct 4 to record their statements.

IHC dismisses plea to stop proceedings against Dar

According to the petition, the accountability judge dismissed the application seeking the postponement of the indictment on the grounds that “the law mandated the framing of charge within seven days of supply of document to the accused”.

Mr Dar’s counsel, while discussing section 256 of the CrPC, argued that the law mandated that the supply of a copy of the investigation report and document are to be provided to the accused no later than seven days before the commencement of the trial, adding that it was evident that there had to be a gap of at least seven days between the supply of documents to the accused and the framing of the charge.

However, the counsel argued that the trial court rejected the application and indicted Mr Dar “without lawful authority”.

He argued that Mr Dar’s indictment violated Article 4 of the Constitution, which mandates that every citizen should be dealt with in accordance with the law.

The petition also alleged that the finance minister was not given a fair opportunity to peruse all the material, which consists of 23 volumes, on the basis of which the charge was framed. Therefore, the petitioner was precluded to raise any objections to the framing of charge.

Mr Dar asked the IHC to set aside his indictment and give him an adequate opportunity to raise objections to the framing of charge and its contents before calling prosecution witnesses and recording their statements. The petition also asked that trial proceedings be halted until the adjudication of this matter.

The bench observed that the accountability court was moving in the right direction, and so the high court could not stop the trial court from proceeding in the reference against Mr Dar.

On July 28, a five-member Supreme Court bench had ordered NAB to file three references against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and one against Mr Dar, on petitions filed by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s Imran Khan, Jamaat-i-Islami’s Sirajul Haq and Awami Muslim League’s Sheikh Rashid Ahmed.

In its reference against the finance minister, NAB has alleged that “the accused has acquired assets and pecuniary interests/resources in his own name and/or in the name of his dependants of an approximate amount of Rs831.678 million (approx)”.

The reference alleged that the assets were “disproportionate to his known sources of income for which he could not reasonably account for”.

Published in Dawn, October 4th, 2017

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