LAHORE: An accountability court on Tuesday took exception to the use of vehicles seized as “case property” by the officials of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for personal purposes and summoned its Lahore’s director general for an explanation. Presiding Judge Amjad Nazir Chaudhry also got irked when NAB’s Special Prosecutor Waris Ali Janjua defended the act and said there was no bar in the law on using the vehicles regarded as case property.
The judge was hearing a petition by a private bank against the use of confiscated vehicles by the officials of the NAB.
NAB Lahore Director General Shahzad Saleem and other officials were supposed to appear before the court following a previous order. However, the prosecutor explained to the court that the DG was unable to attend the proceeding due to his busy schedule at the office. When asked about the nature of the DG’s engagement at the office, the prosecutor said he could not disclose the official schedule as it involved sensitivity.
Later, he said NAB chairman retired justice Javed Iqbal was in the city to head a high profile meeting.
“What if the court summons the chairman?” said the judge. He said the investigating officer and other officials were present in the court.
During the hearing, Judge Chaudhry also expressed dismay over a counsel for the bank when he stated that his client wanted to withdraw the petition.
“Why do you want to withdraw the petition? Did NAB pressurize you?” the judge asked the bank’s lawyer urging him to show some courage when the court was there to protect his rights.
Coming back to the case, the judge asked the prosecutor to clearly answer the question whether the seized vehicles were in the use of the NAB officials as the record of the car tracking company proved the allegation.
However, Mr Janjua denied the allegation and said the record of the tracking company had been causing problems in many cases.
“What law permits the NAB to use case property for personal purposes?” the judge asked the prosecutor point-blank.
The prosecutor argued that the seized vehicle in question was not used for any personal benefit but to perform official duty for the state. He insisted that there was no bar in the law on using the case property.
Judge Chaudhry observed that by this logic the NAB officials should take the arrested people to their homes and use them for domestic work.
“Who will be responsible if a car from the case property meets an accident or gets stolen?” the judge asked the prosecutor.
To a court’s query, the prosecutor admitted that the court could take notice if a case property was in personal use of any official. He said the car was used by the officials but not misused.
The prosecutor requested the judge to hear the matter in chamber instead of the court. The judge snubbed the prosecutor and warned him against dictating the court.
At first the judge ordered the prosecutor to ensure the appearance of the NAB-Lahore DG by 12 noon, however, later directed him to appear on Sept 3. The judge observed that reports will be sought about the use of case property in other cases as well.
Published in Dawn, August 26th, 2020