ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday summoned the prosecutor general of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) after its special prosecutors failed to convince the court as to why the anti-graft watchdog, despite imminent threat of coronavirus spread in prisons and other detention centres, was keen on continuing detention of suspects implicated in fake bank accounts and Modarba fraud cases and opposing their bail pleas.
An IHC division bench comprising Chief Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Aamer Farooq resumed the hearing of 27 applications filed by fake bank accounts case suspects, including Hussain Lawai, Taha Raza and Dr Dinshaw Hoshang Anklesaria, as well as some suspects in the Modaraba fraud case.
On Tuesday, the court had adjourned the hearing to Wednesday after NAB special prosecutor Bilal Ahmed Malik sought the adjournment on the plea that he was not well aware of facts of the cases in which the under-trial prisoners were seeking bail.
On Wednesday, NAB prosecutors Bilal Malik and Wasiq Malik appeared before the court. Wasiq Malik was not wearing the proper uniform while Bilal Malik was not wearing a face mask.
The court expressed displeasure over this casual behaviour of the prosecutors. When the court asked the NAB prosecutors why they were opposing the bail applications of vulnerable under-trial prisoners, they replied that jail authorities might be directed by the court for screening of all prisoners in the jail.
“Why shouldn’t NAB shift its office to the premises of Adiala jail?” Justice Farooq asked.
Justice Minallah asked the prosecutors why NAB was reluctant to release aged prisoners whose lives were at stake because they had been detained in the overcrowded Rawalpindi Central Jail, Adiala.
According to a report submitted to the court by the jail superintendent, Adiala jail accommodated over 5,000 prisoners, though legally the jail authorities were not authorised to house prisoners more than its capacity which was meant for 2,174 prisoners.
The court summoned NAB prosecutor general Syed Asghar Haider to appear before it at 10.30am on Thursday and adjourned the hearing. Because of the unprecedented situation created in prisons and across the country by the spread of deadly coronavirus, under-trial, aged, female and juvenile prisoners had filed appeals in the IHC through the jail superintendent, requesting it to order their release on parole.
Taking sympathetic view of their appeals and extraordinary situation created by fast spreading Covid-19 cases, the court immediately ordered conditional release of over 700 under-trial prisoners.
Published in Dawn, March 26th, 2020