ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Tuesday cleared four appeals of former president Asif Ali Zardari for regular hearing before an open court.

The former president had challenged the registrar office’s decision to return his pleas seeking transfer of corruption references against him from Islamabad to an accountability court in Karachi.

Justice Umar Ata Bandial during a chamber hearing overruled the objections raised by the registrar office and ordered fixing the appeals before the open court within two weeks.

On Nov 14, Senator Farooq H. Naek, the counsel for the former president, had instituted chamber appeals against the assistant registrar’s Nov 10 decision to return four separate petitions on the grounds that these amounted to second review of earlier verdicts of the apex court and, therefore, could not be entertained.

Ex-president challenged registrar office’s decision to return his four separate petitions

Mr Zardari is facing four different references at accountability courts in Islamabad — the fake bank accounts, Park Lane Estate Private Limited, Thatta water supply and Toshakhana cases. He has already been indicted by a court in the Toshakhana (gift repository) reference on Sept 9, on Aug 10 over charges of money laundering for acquiring Benami properties through Park Lane Estate (Pvt) Ltd, and on Oct 5 in Thatta water supply reference and in the fake bank accounts scandal.

The chamber appeals had contended that the registrar office’s order was not sustainable in law as well as the case law enunciated by the Supreme Court. Moreover, for the “safe administration of justice”, it was a constitutional right of the petitioner to knock at the door of the apex court, but the registrar order showed that the rights of the appellants had been “blocked at the institutional level” which was not the practice of the apex court, the application said.

“The question of returning the application on non-maintainability relates to the judicial work which cannot be taken up on the executive side or through delegation of powers for exercising judicial work,” it emphasised.

The petitioner pointed out that the Nov 10 order was signed by the assistant registrar on behalf of the registrar, contending that it was a violation of the Supreme Court’s rules. The assistant registrar, while exercising the registrar’s powers, did not consider the law and arbitrarily returned the petition, the former president said.

He further said the assistant registrar did not take into consideration a directive of the apex court issued on Jan 7 last year in which it asked the National Accountability Bureau to initiate references in the fake accounts case at the Islamabad accountability court, but at the same time the court made it clear that the matter can be taken up afresh if any of the parties desired it or at the discretion of the implementation bench.

In view of the above arguments, the appellant said, he had the right to file the application returned by the Supreme Court’s office by terming it a second review. The observation was based on “misreading” and even “non-reading” of the Jan 7 order, the petition said.

Published in Dawn, November 25th, 2020

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