Ordinance ‘disrupts’ proceedings in NAB references, pleas

Published October 8, 2021
The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has sought assistance of NAB’s prosecutors and senior lawyer Farooq H. Naek to decide the fate of pending bail petitions in cases pertaining to the National Accounta­bility Ordinance (NAO). — Dawn/File
The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has sought assistance of NAB’s prosecutors and senior lawyer Farooq H. Naek to decide the fate of pending bail petitions in cases pertaining to the National Accounta­bility Ordinance (NAO). — Dawn/File

ISLAMABAD: The presidential ordinance about the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has served to “disrupt” the otherwise smooth proceedings on references and bail petitions relating to the anti-graft watchdog, it emerged on Thursday.

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has sought assistance of NAB’s prosecutors and senior lawyer Farooq H. Naek to decide the fate of pending bail petitions in cases pertaining to the National Accounta­bility Ordinance (NAO).

President Dr Arif Alvi on Wednesday promulgated the ordinance that extends the tenure of NAB chairman. The ordinance excludes the business community, the bureaucracy, and federal and provincial cabinets and their committees from the ambit of NAO.

It also empowers the accountability courts to grant bail to the accused facing NAB cases. It also removes financial crimes, other than mega corruption scandals, from the ambit of NAB.

IHC seeks assistance of NAB’s prosecutors and senior lawyer to decide the fate of pending bail petitions

The NAO, 1999 did not provide for granting bail to the accused as an under-custody suspect could only apply for bail after expiry of a remand of 90 days, that too under the extraordinary jurisdiction of the high court under Article 199 of the Constitution, which empowers the high court to enforce fundamental rights.

The new ordinance, however, states: “No court other than the court under the Ordinance [accountability court], shall have the power or the jurisdiction to grant bail to or otherwise release an accused person in a case triable by an accountability court.”

An IHC division bench comprising Chief Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Aamer Farooq, while hearing on Thursday a petition seeking bail of former president Asif Ali Zardari in the US properties reference, expressed the view that after pro­mulgation of the ordinance the trial court was the competent forum for grant of bail.

The prosecutor suggested that all the bail petitions be dismissed in the light of the presidential ordinance.

Advocate Naek, on the other hand, suggested that this would set the precedence for all the petitions pending before the other high courts. Subsequently, the court asked the NAB prosecution and Advocate Naek to submit their comments on the matter by Nov 9.

Meanwhile, an accountability court in Islamabad sought comments from NAB after an accused allegedly involved in financial scam challenged the bureau’s jurisdiction under which he has been charged for defrauding the public at large.

Saifur Rehman — chief executive offi­cer of the B4U company, who is accused of cheating the public in a multi-billion-rupee scam — filed an application before the accountability court in which he challenged the NAB’s proceedings against him.

The judge sought a report from NAB and adjourned the proceedings till October 21.

Sindh’s CM

Talking to journalists after appearing before the accountability court, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, who is facing a NAB reference, initially termed the promulgation of NAB ordinance “unconstitutional”.

However, when asked whether he would challenge the law or would use it to get benefit from the “ouster clauses” of the ordinance that protected the collective decisions of the federal and provincial cabinets and their committees, Mr Shah said he had not read the certified copy of the ordinance and could only comment (in detail) after going through the official version of the presidential ordinance.

Published in Dawn, October 8th, 2021

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