ISLAMABAD: Deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif has moved the Supreme Court against multiple corruption references filed against him by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) under the directives of the apex court in the Panama Papers case’s judgement.

In a constitutional petition filed on Friday, Mr Sharif urged the apex court to declare filing of multiple references against him contrary to the law and its own previous judgement.

“Declare that the final order of the Supreme Court of July 28, to the extent that it directs filing of three references against the petitioner, is per-incuriam, being repugnant to the provisions of Article 4, 9, 10A, 13 and 25 of the Constitution,” pleaded the petition moved before the apex court by Mr Sharif through his trusted counsel Advocate Khawaja Haris Ahmad. Mr Sharif and members of his family are facing three corruption references before the Accountability Court No. 1, Islamabad, which is expected to indict the former premier on these references on Oct 25.

On Sept 15, a five-judge Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa rejected Mr Sharif’s petition seeking review of his July 28 disqualification, 17 months after the Panama Papers controversy that surfaced last year in April when the International Consortium of Investigative Journalist (ICIJ) leaked information about the offshore entities of the Sharifs. The detailed judgement on the review petition is still awaited.

The new petition under Article 184(3) of the Constitution has named the federal government through the law ministry, NAB, the accountability court, Mr Sharif’s sons Hussain and Hassan Nawaz, daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law retired Capt Muhammad Safdar as respondents in the petition.

But the fresh petition also requested the Supreme Court to suspend the proceedings before the accountability court in the three references namely 18, 19 and 20 by holding these were repugnant to the provision of National Accountability Ordina­nce (NAO), 1999, and the constitution till the filing of a consolidated reference by NAB in respect of the alleged commission of offence under Section 9(a)(v) of NAO.

The petition also argued that the offence falling under Section 9(a)(v) of NAO as well as the right to fair trial demands that a single offence, irrespective of the nature and number of assets alleged to be owned, possessed or acquired by the accused or the period during which such assets may have been owned.

Moreover, the contents of the three references filed before the accountability court were also not known to the accused, adding the composite allegations made against Mr Sharif in all the three references actually tantamount to allegation of commission of one offence and as such filing of three separate references and three separate trials for allegation of one offence will be in gross violation of NAO law.

The petition emphasised that the filing of multiple references against the accused for the same allegations exposes him to double punishment. This is repugnant to the accused person’s fundamental right under Article 13 of the constitution, the petition said, adding it was also in derogation of Mr Sharif’s fundamental right guaranteed under Articles 9 and 14 of the constitution.

Already the filing of multiple references in a case allegedly involving acquisition of assets beyond means is unprecedented and as such is manifestly discriminatory and, therefore, violating petitioner’s fundamental rights as guaranteed under Article 25 of the constitution that guarantees equality of all before law.

The separate trials of an accused for a single offence are contrary to the principles of the criminal justice and the procedure provided under the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).

Citing the cases of 1994’s Khaliluz Zaman as well as 2013’s Abdul Rehman Farooq Pirzada, the petition highlighted that the principle laid down under these cases enunciated that drastic and adverse effects on the people at large and the state in present or in future was liable to be revisited in exercise of powers under Article 184(3) of the constitution. The petition also requested the Supreme Court to declare that multiple trials on a single charge would prejudice the petitioner’s fundamental rights to be dealt with in accordance with law, fair trial and protection against double punishment, guaranteed under Articles 4, 10A and 13 of the constitution.

Published in Dawn, October 14th, 2017

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