SC directs NAB courts to expedite proceedings

Updated 22 Oct 2020

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The Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered all the 24 accountability courts to expedite proceedings in corruption references without granting any adjournments to parties. — SC website/File
The Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered all the 24 accountability courts to expedite proceedings in corruption references without granting any adjournments to parties. — SC website/File

• Three-judge bench bars adjournments in graft cases
• Expects NAB to ensure timely production of witnesses
• CJP apprised of top law officer’s meeting with PM

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered all the 24 accountability courts to expedite proceedings in corruption references without granting any adjournments to parties.

Headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed, a three-judge SC bench also directed the accountability courts to ensure that the evidence of different witnesses is recorded as early as possible.

The bench also expected that the prosecution would not seek any adjournment and National Accountability Bureau (NAB) prosecutor general would ensure all witnesses were timely produced before accountability courts. Moreover, NAB chairman Javed Iqbal would ensure compliance with the court order in letter and spirit and order disciplinary action against those found guilty of not obeying the court directions, the bench observed.

The Supreme Court expressed the hope that the federal cabinet would take a quick decision to implement the July 8 directions to establish 120 accountability courts across the country to clear a huge backlog.

Earlier, Additional Attorney General Sohail Mehmood informed the court that Attorney General for Pakistan Khalid Jawed Khan met Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday to discuss different under-trial cases before the superior courts in addition to the establishment of 120 accountability courts.

The additional AG apprised the court that a comprehensive proposal for the establishment of 120 accountability courts had already been submitted by the law ministry to the PM secretariat for final approval. The SC then directed law secretary to furnish a report before the bench regarding the decision on 120 accountability courts.

An informed source told Dawn that initially a few more accountability courts would be set up and their number would be increased to 120 at some later stage.

The SC had taken up a suo motu case regarding delay in trials before the accountability courts in the light of Section 16 of the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) that asks for deciding corruption matters within 30 days. The suo motu proceeding was initiated when Justice Mushir Alam had requested the Chief Justice of Pakistan on January 8 to constitute a special bench and initiate suo motu proceedings over the delay in prosecuting the accused before the trial courts.

According to a law ministry report, all the 24 accountability courts are fully functional and currently no vacancy exists in any accountability court.

During the hearing when acting law secretary appeared before the court, the CJP expressed wonder why the Ministry of Law was following ad hocism by not appointing a permanent secretary.

The court also noted that pursuant to its last order, the NAB chairman had furnished proposed NAB Rules 2020 before the President for final approval on Aug 26, 2020. The additional AG stated that the law ministry was vetting the rules and if found in order the same would be promulgated and therefore the court should grant another month in this regard.

Decide Fateh Mills chairman case

Referring to a reference against Fateh Textile Mills chairman Goharullah Khan pending before a NAB court since 2016, the Supreme Court ordered the trial court to record testimonies of the remaining 21 of the total 26 witnesses when it would resume hearing on Oct 31 and then record the statements of the accused as well as the defence evidence on the next working day.

The SC further directed the trial court to decide the reference in the following week and file a report before the apex court.

The corruption reference concerns the award of 8,626 acres of compact block for establishing Lakhra Coal Fired Power Plant, which was signed between the Fateh Group and a Ukrainian company through a joint venture, but later outsourced to another company to sell the coal after quarrying it.

All the 11 accused in the reference were granted bail by the Supreme Court on March 29, 2017.

NAB’s reply sought on bail plea

In a separate case, the SC sought the NAB prosecutor general’s reply within 10 days on a pre-arrest bail plea moved by Daud Pota, a Sindh tourism department employee, in a corruption scam involving Rs170 million.

According to his plea for bail, NAB in its reference had named him as an accused despite the fact that the scam had been made unearthed with his help and cooperation.

Advocate Nisar A. Mujahid pleaded before the SC that his client was a whistle-blower who was praised by the NAB for his cooperation that resulted in the recovery of the embezzled money of Rs170 million. But when the reference was prepared, the petitioner’s name was added to the list of the accused persons while the size of the corruption was reduced to mere Rs15 million.

Published in Dawn, October 22nd, 2020