LAHORE: Lahore High Court Chief Justice Sardar Mohammad Shamim Khan on Thursday constituted a full bench to hear a petition that challenged the legitimacy of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and sought suspension of all convictions under its law.

Justice Mohammad Qasim Khan will head the three-judge full bench. The two others are Justice Malik Shahzad Ahmad Khan and Justice Asjad Javed Ghural.

Justice Qasim Khan, while hearing the petition as a single-judge bench on Sept 18, had recommended the formation of a larger bench with an observation that an important point was involved in the matter and its decision might entail deep legal and factual repercussions.

However, the judge had turned down a plea of the petitioner to suspend the sentence awarded to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and all other accused persons under the accountability ordinance. The judge had observed that the practice of granting main relief under the garb of an interim relief was the least permissible exercise and if such practice was allowed, it was bound to frustrate the entire scheme of the law.

Another petition against appointment of Justice Iqbal as bureau chairman is pending adjudication before high court

It was also observed that the respective convicts must have assailed their convictions before the relevant forums and, as such, the best course available to them would be to file appropriate petitions in the forums seized with their pending appeals.

The judge had in his decision observed: “This court at this stage and in these independent proceedings cannot grant the proposed relief as, otherwise, this court firmly believes that grant of relief as being claimed will be flagrant inroads in the jurisdiction of other competent forums.”

The cause list of the full bench will be issued soon.

The petition filed by senior lawyer A.K. Dogar stated that there was no provision in the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) 1999 for the formation of a bureau. The petitioner contended that it was stipulated in the ordinance that the chairman of NAB shall be appointed by the president in consultation with the leader of the house and the leader of the opposition, but it was not enacted anywhere how the bureau shall be formed.

Advocate Dogar requested the court to declare the formation of the present bureau and all its actions illegal.

Another petition of Mr Dogar is also pending adjudication before the high court against the appointment of retired Justice Javed Iqbal as NAB chairman.

He argued that the appointment of NAB chairman under Section 6 (b) of the NAO 1999 was a violation of Article 48 (1) of the Constitution wherein the chairman could only be appointed on the advice of the cabinet or the prime minister.

Published in Dawn, October 11th, 2019