ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Wednesday constituted a five-member bench to take up an appeal filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) against the Islamabad High Court’s judgement of Sept 19 that suspended the jail terms awarded to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz in the Avenfield apartments reference.

Also on Wednesday, the IHC decided that it would take up for hearing an appeal filed against Mr Sharif’s conviction in the Al-Azizia reference after 10 days.

The apex court’s bench that will take up NAB’s appeal against suspension of the IHC verdict in the Avenfield reference will be headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar and comprise Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, Justice Gulzar Ahmed, Justice Mushir Alam and Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel.

At the last hearing in November, the Supreme Court had indicated that it would constitute a larger bench to take up a set of questions it had formulated about the scope of the constitutional jurisdiction for grant of bail during investigation or trial.

IHC to take up ex-PM’s appeal against conviction in Al-Azizia reference after 10 days

The questions are part of 16 legal points formulated by the court office with the assistance of NAB’s special prosecutor Akram Qureshi and defence counsel Khawaja Haris Ahmed. The court has to decide whether guidelines provided by the superior courts regarding ouster of Section 426 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) are required to be followed for the suspension of sentence in NAB cases, and if so what are the principles regulating suspension of the sentence under Section 426 of the CrPC.

The court will also ascertain if the principles regulating bail under sections 497 and 498 of the CrPC will be applicable while considering the suspension of sentence. Also, if the convict is entitled to suspension of sentence but the judgement/order suspending the sentence is not happily worded, what will be its effect then?

The larger bench will determine that in case a concession of suspension of sentence is extended by the court of appeal, will principles of cancellation of bail also apply for withdrawal of suspension.

The court also has to determine if the IHC had interpreted correctly the provisions of Section 9(b) of the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) 1999 and whether the ground of hardship can be considered while suspending the sentence in a NAB case.

The bench will further decide if the merits of a case can be discussed and conclusive findings be given as was done by the high court in this case.

The larger bench may also suggest whether the high court can take up the constitutional petition when the main appeals have already been fixed for hearing and whether a detailed order comprising 41 pages is permissible while dealing with suspension of the sentence.

Sharif’s appeal in IHC

A division bench of the high court comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani on Wednesday issued directives to the registrar’s office to fix the appeal against Mr Sharif’s conviction in the Al-Azizia reference before the bench after 10 days.

Mr Sharif filed the appeal through his lead counsel Khawaja Haris.

An accountability court had on Dec 24 convicted Mr Sharif and sentenced him to seven years’ imprisonment in the Al-Azizia reference.

Earlier this week, an IHC bench comprising Chief Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Farooq — while hearing a petition of the former prime minister that sought suspension of the sentence — observed that the matter could not be heard unless an appeal was admitted for regular hearing.

In his order of Dec 24, the accountability court judge had acquitted Mr Sharif in the reference pertaining to Flagship and other UK-based companies owned by the ex-premier’s son Hassan Nawaz.

NAB has challenged Mr Sharif’s acquittal in this reference and also requested the IHC to enhance the jail term from seven years to 14 years in the Al-Azizia reference.

Published in Dawn, January 10th, 2019