ISLAMABAD: A two-member bench of the Supreme Court on Tuesday again referred a post-arrest bail plea of Jang Group of Newspapers chief executive Mir Shakeelur Rehman to Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Gulzar Ahmed for re-fixing of its hearing by a three-judge bench on next Monday.
Earlier, on Sept 30, Justice Umar Ata Bandial, who headed the three-judge SC bench, had recused himself from hearing the plea moved by the media tycoon against the Lahore High Court’s July 8 order rejecting the same. He cited personal reasons for recusing himself from heading the bench.
The two-member SC bench consisting of Justice Mushir Alam and Justice Muneeb Akhtar referred the matter to the CJP when NAB additional prosecutor general Haider Ali Khan requested the court to refer the matter before a three-judge bench as ordered earlier.
Mr Rehman, who has been under detention approximately for 230 days, was represented by senior counsel Khawaja Haris Ahmed. He was arrested on March 12.
On Tuesday, Khawaja Haris pleaded before the court that there was no bar that the bail plea should not be heard by the two-judge bench.
But the NAB additional prosecutor general recalled that the apex court had already held that the matter should be decided by the three-member bench.
Justice Alam, however, observed that the court was very careful while deciding bail application of an accused in NAB cases and hinted at ordering re-fixing of the case again for Thursday, but then decided it for the next week when the prosecutor requested for the same.
At this, the court referred the matter to the CJP with a request that the case may be placed before the three-judge bench for Monday next week.
In his petition, Mr Rehman pleaded that re-opening of a 34-year-old case relating to exemption of plots with respect to which neither the Lahore Development Authority nor any other authority or owner of the land had raised any grievance inevitably involved consideration extraneous to law.
The factum of ingrained mala fides involved in the initiation and continuance of proceedings against the petitioner under the NAO, 1999, in the 34-year-old matter of exemption of land can be well gauged by the manner in which the NAB chairman in Islamabad and the bureau’s officials in Lahore acted at tandem with each other on March 12, 2020, to bring about the arrest of the petitioner, the petition said.
On March 12, the petitioner was called to the NAB office in Lahore for submitting his answers to the questionnaire attached with a call-up notice and was subsequently arrested. The petition alleged that each and every allegation forming the basis of grounds for the arrest was maliciously false and concocted and the arrest of the petitioner had been procured by NAB with ulterior motives and for reasons extraneous to law.
Pursuant to the mala fide arrest of the petitioner on March 12, he was produced before an accountability court in Lahore the next day and remanded to physical custody of NAB from time to time for a total period of 45 days, and ultimately to judicial custody vides the April 28 order.
Soon after the arrest, Mr Rehman and his wife filed two separate writ petitions challenging the arrest as well as the remand orders, but both these writ petitions were dismissed as “meritless and premature” by the high court on April 7.
During the pendency of the writ petition, the NAB chairman filed a reference against the petitioner and three other co-accused — Nawaz Sharif, who was chief minister of Punjab in 1986, and two then LDA’s senior officials Hamayon Faiz Rasool and Mian Bashir Ahmad.
The petition contended that the high court had erred in law by failing to see that the entire series of actions of the respondents demonstrated that they were led by ulterior motives of intimidating and demoralising the petitioner and thus making him an example for the entire media industry to keep others in line, instead of a bona fide exercise of carefully examining a complaint, seeking answers, then deciding to convert it into an inquiry and so on.
Published in Dawn, November 4th, 2020