ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday extended the pre-arrest interim bail of former information minister of Sindh Sharjeel Memon till Feb 11.
A division bench of the high court asked whether the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) could arrest an accused just for the recovery of an embezzled amount.
The IHC bench comprising Chief Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Lubna Saleem Pervaiz resumed the hearing of Mr Memon’s petition seeking extension of his pre-arrest bail.
The court had granted him interim bail in December last year in the Roshan Sindh programme case related to installation of solar streetlights in different districts of Sindh.
Sardar Latif Khan Khosa appeared on behalf of Mr Memon. He told the court that a separate petition had also been filed seeking acquittal of the former minister in light of the newly promulgated presidential ordinance on amendment to the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) 1999.
IHC wonders whether an accused can be arrested for recovery of embezzled amount
Mr Khosa pointed out that Mr Memon was a provincial minister and he had never been part of the committee that approved the project, adding that the former minister had only forwarded the summary of the project to the then chief minister.
He said that NAB had decided to arrest Mr Memon in order to recover the allegedly embezzled amount.
When Justice Minallah asked the prosecution whether the bureau wanted to make recovery of some embezzled amount of money, the NAB deputy prosecutor general Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi replied in the affirmative.
The bench observed that the NAO did not empower the investigation officer to arrest the accused to recover the alleged embezzled amount, adding that under the law, NAB could recover the ill-gotten amount with the consent of the accused.
The IHC CJ reminded the prosecutor that Mr Memon had been in custody of NAB for 20 months and he could be interrogated in the case during his arrest.
Prosecutor Abbasi replied that since Mr Memon was not under arrest in the case, NAB’s investigation team did not quiz him in the Roshan Sindh programme case.
The court observed that NAB could not misuse powers to arrest an accused.
Justice Minallah said the NAB chairman did not have unfettered powers of arrest and in case the bureau misused its powers, constitutional courts had every right to intervene and invoke extraordinary jurisdiction to ensure complete justice.
“If NAB desires to assume the role of adjudicator, should we shut down the courts?” asked Justice Minallah.
He said that in the light of Supreme Court verdicts, NAB could neither arrest an accused to recover the embezzled amount nor was its act of plea bargain during the arrest of an accused legitimate.
He said that the Supreme Court’s judgments in matters related to plea bargain were very clear. “The plea bargain can only be accepted if an accused agrees to pay the amount without any fear or pressure,” he said.
The court directed the prosecution to carefully examine the Supreme Court verdicts and asked the investigation officer to give solid reasons for Memon’s arrest at the next hearing on Feb 11.
Park Lane case
An accountability court deferred the indictment of PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari and other accused in the Park Lane reference. The court directed the prosecution to bring ailing accused Anwar Majeed of the Omni Group by air ambulance so that suspects in the Park Lane case could be indicted on Feb 11.
Meanwhile, accountability court judge Azam Khan provided copies of the reference related to fake bank accounts to Faryal Talpur, Abdul Ghani Majeed and others.
During the course of arguments, Farooq H. Naek informed the court that since NAB was still conducting probe into the fake accounts case and it had so far filed an interim reference, the accused might not be indicted.
The NAB prosecutor said the bureau might file the supplementary reference after completion of the investigation. He requested the judge to frame charges against those accused against whom investigation had been completed.
Talking to journalists, Advocate Naek clarified that the Park Lane and fake accounts were two separate references. He said that in the Park Lane reference, NAB had nominated Mr Zardari as an accused, while in the fake accounts reference, his sister Faryal Talpur and others had been booked. Mr Naek claimed that both references were baseless and had been filed with mala fide intention.
The hearing was adjourned till Feb 11.
Published in Dawn, January 23rd, 2020