IHC asks NAB for report in housing scandal case

Updated April 09, 2020

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Seeks explanation for ‘scandalising’ judges after bureau’s request to close the matter. — PPI/File
Seeks explanation for ‘scandalising’ judges after bureau’s request to close the matter. — PPI/File

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday sought an explanation from the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for scandalising judges and turned down its request for disposing of the bail petition of Leader of Opposition in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly and former housing minister Akram Khan Durrani.

Just a day before coming up with the request, NAB withdrew the arrest warrants that had been issued against Mr Durrani last year. The ex-minister had filed the pre-arrest bail plea before the IHC in order to avoid arrest.

Seeks explanation for ‘scandalising’ judges after bureau’s request to close the matter

When a division bench of the IHC comprising Chief Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Aamer Farooq resumed hearing on the bail petition, NAB’s additional prosecutor general Jahanzeb Khan Bharwana informed the court that the petition had become infructuous as the arrest warrants against Mr Durrani had been withdrawn. He then requested the court to dispose of the matter accordingly.

At the previous hearing on March 17, Chief Justice Minallah had observed that the NAB had attempted to scandalise and blackmail judges by levelling allegations against some IHC judges as well as other judicial officers in its investigation report that stated they had been given out-of-turn allotment of government accommodations. He had also expressed annoyance over NAB’s request to keep the report confidential and had observed that it could be an attempt to drag judges into a controversy in a bid to blackmail them.

The bench had also asked NAB to inform the court if the report had been prepared with the consent of retired Justice Javed Iqbal, chairman of the bureau.

On Wednesday, Mr Bharwana however informed the court that the investigation officer in this case had been replaced, as the inquiry had been assigned to another officer. He told the IHC bench that the arrest warrants against the opposition leader had been withdrawn, requesting it to dispose of the matter.

Justice Minallah observed that since the names of judges had been included in the NAB report, therefore, the bench would go into details of this case.

“If we have done anything wrong and were given out-of-turn houses, we are also accountable,” the chief justice remarked.

In 2015, the Ministry of Housing and Works had allegedly made out-of-turn allotment of official residences to judicial officers and staff of the IHC. The allotment was, however, in accordance with the “The High Court Judges (Leave, Pension and Privileges) Order”.

While rejecting NAB’s request for disposing of the bail plea of opposition leader in KP Assembly, the bench asked the prosecutor to submit the report of the officer entrusted with the investigation and adjourned further hearing in the matter till May 12.

Justice Farooq, however, recused himself from further hearing the case.

Reference against NAB chairman

Meanwhile, former president of the Islamabad High Court Bar Association Raja Inam Ameen Minhas has said that NAB had prepared the fabricated report in order to undermine the judiciary. He said the act of the NAB’s chairman as well as other officials behind this fabricated report was tantamount to misconduct. He said the lawyers of the federal capital were upset over this act of targeting judiciary and intend to file a reference against the NAB chairman before an appropriate forum.

Published in Dawn, April 9th, 2020