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ISLAMABAD: Terming the absence of ‘ailing’ defunct finance minister Ishaq Dar from the trial proceeding deliberate, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has accused him of playing “hide-and-seek” with courts and the investigation agency.

NAB in its written reply to Mr Dar’s petition submitted to the Islamabad High Court (IHC) claimed that being fugitive of the law the defunct minister cannot seek any relief from courts.

A division bench, comprising Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb, on December 20 issued a stay order against the trial proceeding of the accountability court in the assets reference against Mr Dar.

The accountability court had last year declared Mr Dar a proclaimed offender within 10 days of the issuance of the proclamation and initiated ex-parte proceedings against him in his presence.

Written reply submitted to IHC claims that as fugitive of law, defunct minister cannot seek relief from courts

The IHC on December 20 while restraining the accountability court from proceeding against Mr Dar had asked NAB to explain why section 17(c) was invoked to declare him a proclaimed offender after 10 days of the issuance of the proclamation whereas under the routine practice of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) the minimum period for such an exercise is 30 days.

The bench had asked NAB to explain “whether the trial court exercised its discretion in accordance with the law; whether orders were sustainable on the touchstone of reasonableness and if initiating proceedings against Mr Dar were in consonance with law.”

NAB’s special prosecutor Imran Shafique Advocate in the reply stated that a proclaimed offender, absconder or fugitive from the law cannot be heard unless he surrendered to the court of law.

“The petition on this ground alone is not proceedable, hence liable to be dismissed,” he contended, adding it was also a settled law that a writ petition emerging from a criminal matter cannot be filed on the basis of special power of attorney.

NAB said the petitioner was bound to disclose his bona fide which lacked in the instant matter. Therefore, the petitioner is debarred from invoking the jurisdiction of the IHC.

It alleged that the defunct minister was guilty of playing hide-and-seek with the court of competent jurisdiction, adding the court was constrained to pass an order for taking coercive measures against the accused.

It maintained that Mr Dar had assailed numerous orders passed in different applications pertaining to different subjects in a single writ petition which was not warranted under the law.

In response to the IHC’s questions, NAB came up with two questions: whether the accused was able to make a case for exemption on the basis of medical ground and if the appointment of pleader in the case was possible and it was justified to allow the trial to continue in “self-imposed exile of the accused.”

It said these questions were worth consideration by the court as the answer to the remaining questions revolved around the same.

The reply stated that the last medical report was submitted by the accused on December 5 which was based on the conclusion of a doctor regarding a cardiac problem allegedly faced by the accused.

“Even if taken as a gospel truth and relied upon, the report itself is sufficient to refute the petitioner’s stated cardiac problem,” it stated.

Relying on a medical report, NAB has concluded that Mr Dar is not suffering from any disease which cannot be treated within the country. He has no major medical issue and life threatening disease and no restriction on the movement and travel of the accused has been suggested.

NAB added that Mr Dar through his counsel had produced seven medical reports before the trial court which were not only inconsistent and contradictory but were sufficient to expose the mala fide of the “petitioner who in order to escape from the court staged the drama of serious heart problem.”

He took adjournments spreading over 81 days from the last absence. The reports are blatantly violative of the laws of the country from which they have been produced.

It said the accused cannot be given a privileged and extraordinary concession in the matter of a criminal trial. The appointment of pleader and grant of exemption are discretion of the trial court which cannot be claimed as a matter of right.

Published in Dawn, January 16th, 2018