NAB request for transfer of Shahbaz’s bail petition rejected

Updated February 12, 2019

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NAB counsel argues that Shahbaz Sharif's bail application be sent to division bench headed by Justice Ali Baqar Najafi, that has already turned down pleas of two co-suspects. —  File photo
NAB counsel argues that Shahbaz Sharif's bail application be sent to division bench headed by Justice Ali Baqar Najafi, that has already turned down pleas of two co-suspects. — File photo

LAHORE: Lahore High Court Chief Justice Sardar Mohammad Shamim Khan on Monday dismissed an application of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) seeking transfer of bail petition of Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif from a two-judge bench presently seized with it.

A NAB counsel argued before the chief justice that at present a division bench comprising Justice Malik Shahzad Ahmad Khan and Justice Mirza Viqas Rauf was holding proceedings on the bail petition of Mr Sharif in the Ashiyana-i-Iqbal Housing Scheme case.

He pointed out that another division bench headed by Justice Ali Baqar Najafi had already decided bail petitions of co-suspects in the housing scheme scam. Therefore, he said the bail petition of former Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif should also be heard by the same bench. The counsel also referred to a Supreme Court judgment in support of his arguments. However, the Chief Justice dismissed the application for being not maintainable.

Expressing dismay over the application, Chief Justice Khan observed that the NAB was already under criticism for its affairs. “And now the NAB also wants to have a bench of its choice,” the chief justice added.

LHC chief justice notes that the bureau wants to have a bench of its choice

Meanwhile, the bench headed by Justice Malik Shahzad Ahmad Khan adjourned hearing of the bail petitions moved by Mr Sharif as arguments of NAB special prosecutor Akram Qureshi and defence counsel were under way.

Mr Qureshi argued that Mr Sharif being chief minister unlawfully exercised powers of the Punjab Land Development Company (PLDC) Board of Directors (BoD) and entrusted the project to the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) after cancelling the first lawful contract of the housing scheme awarded to Latif & Sons Company.

He said the PLDC was an autonomous body and the chief minister had no power to intervene in its affairs.

To a bench’s query, the prosecutor admitted that there was no direct evidence against Mr Sharif regarding misuse of authority but as per prosecution witnesses former secretary implementation to chief minister Fawad Hassan Fawad carried out all illegal acts on the instruction of Mr Sharif.

Opposing the bail petition on merits, the special prosecutor said there was no delay in the trial so no ground had been made out at this stage. Challenging the medial grounds taken by the former chief minister for the grant of bail, he argued that as per the judgments of the Supreme Court the bail could be allowed on medical reasons if the sickness was detrimental to life. In the present case, he said, the petitioner had no such hardship or sickness.

Defence counsel Amjad Pervez argued that Mr Sharif being the chief minister had not ordered the cancellation of the housing scheme’s first contract. He said it was BoD of the PLDC that approved the cancellation.

About the transfer of the project from the PLDC to LDA, he said the Punjab government rules of business allowed the chief minister to transfer any subject of a department to another department. He said Mr Sharif took no unlawful decision nor he misused his authority.

The court adjourned hearing till Tuesday asking the defence side to come up with more arguments. The bench also sought arguments from the counsel of Fawad Hassan Fawad on his bail petition in the same case.

Published in Dawn, February 12th, 2019