ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed a set of challenges to the non-bailable warrants for arrest issued by a trial court including against Sharjeel Memon, the former Sindh information minister facing a corruption reference worth Rs5.76 billion.

But Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, who was heading a three-judge bench, also blamed “frailty on the part of the bureaucrats” as the reason behind the present state of affairs and malaise in the country since they had stopped withstanding the illegal orders of their superiors.

The observation came when Advocate Mohammad Ibrahim Satti alleged that discrimination was committed by the National Accountability Bureau that arrested his client — a co-accused in the corruption case — but chose not to arrest bigwigs also facing corruption cases, like former prime ministers Nawaz Sharif, Raja Pervez Ashraf and Yousuf Raza Gilani.

Sharjeel Memon, facing allegation for misappropriation of Rs5.76bn in the award of the Sindh government’s advertisements in the electronic media, was arrested soon after he returned from abroad in March last year.

The law should be implemented universally, Advocate Satti said while defending Yousuf Kaboro — a grade-18 deputy director in the Sindh information department, also a co-accused in the case.

“Those who are openly censuring the judgement of the Supreme Court are roaming freely whereas my client has been sent behind bars,” the counsel regretted.

In the present situation, he argued, it was very difficult for subordinates to resist the pressure by saying “no” to the illegal orders of their superiors.

At this Justice Khosa wondered was it not a crime to misuse authority only to benefit others and regretted that the state of affairs prevailing in the country was the result of officers fulfilling illegal orders instead of resisting the same.

Immediately after the rejection of the appeals by the court, NAB authorities took custody of Kaboro along with one of the owners of a private advertising agency.

In addition to those of Memon, Kaboro and the owner of the advertising company, the Supreme Court dismissed the petitions of co-accused Mohammad Hanif and Asim Amir Khan Sikander.

But the court allowed Memon, Hanif and Sikander to approach the Sindh High Court to get bail after their arrest in the corruption case.

The petitioners had challenged the issuance of non-bailable warrants for arrest by the accountability court.

Justice Khan observed that the court wanted to provide benefit to Sharjeel Memon since he had occupied almost half of the block of a hospital wing to which he had been admitted.

Senior counsel Farooq H. Naek and Latif Khosa, both appearing on behalf of Memon, argued that warrants for arrest were issued against their client by the accountability court and not by the NAB chairman when such powers under the NAB law could only be exercised by the chairman.

Meanwhile, the same bench took up a similar issue on the petitions of Iqbal Z. Ahmed, a prominent business tycoon, as well as former managing director of OGDCL Basharat Mirza also facing corruption reference for allegedly awarding illegal contracts to JJVL for the extraction of LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas) and NGL (Natural Gas Liquids).

The court ordered NAB to come up with a concise statement within a week on the issue highlighted by the petitioners that they had been wrongly issued non-bailable warrants of arrests by the accountability court, seized with the corruption reference against them, when under NAO only the NAB chairman enjoyed the authority to issue such warrants. This was a case of first impression and the court would like to hear the matter in detail, Justice Khosa observed.

Published in Dawn, January 3rd, 2018

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