ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday admitted a petition that challenges recent amendments to the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO).
The main thrust of the petition is on blanket cover given to the members of the federal and provincial cabinets and their committees and extension in the tenure of National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal.
IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah after hearing preliminary arguments issued a notice to the attorney general since the petitioner has challenged the vires (powers) of the NAO Second Amendment Ordinance, 2021.
During the course of the hearing, G.M. Chaudhry, the counsel for the petitioner, Latif Qureshi, a concerned citizen, told the court that section 4 of the ordinance had excluded all government machinery from the jurisdiction of NAB.
He read out section 4 of the ordinance limiting the jurisdiction of accountability courts as its sub section 2-C excludes “any person or entity who, or transaction in relation thereto, which are not directly or indirectly connected with the holder of public office”.
Furthermore, it excludes the federal and provincial cabinets, business community, collective decisions of the committees or sub-committees, Council of Common Interests, National Economic Council, National Finance Commission, Executive Committee of National Economic Council, Central Development Working Party, Provincial Development Working Party, Departmental Development Working Party and the State Bank of Pakistan from the ambit of NAB.
As per the ordinance, “all matters pertaining to Federal, Provincial or Local taxation, other levies or imposts, including refunds, or loss of exchequer pertaining to taxation” will be dealt in accordance with the revenue or banking laws and will be transferred from the accountability courts to the courts of competent jurisdiction.
“The NAB’s jurisdiction has been limited to the peon only,” said the lawyer.
He said the law was discriminatory in nature as it protected certain persons and classes which was against the spirit of Article 25 of the Constitution.
Mr Chaudhry said the government had extended the tenure of the NAB chairman for an indefinite period as the law had not set a deadline for appointment of new chairman after the term of the incumbent would expire.
Justice Minallah issued notices to the ministry of law and justice and other respondents.
The court issued notices to the secretaries of National Assembly and Senate and sought a report in a fortnight from them whether the ordinance had been laid before the parliament or not.
Mandviwalla seeks relief
Former deputy chairman of Senate Saleem Mandviwalla has challenged the Kidney Hills reference saying that under the NAO Second Amendment Ordinance, 2021, the matter has been removed from the ambit of NAB.
Accountability judge Mohammad Bashir resumed hearing on the reference on Thursday. The court on Mr Mandviwalla’s petition sought reply from the prosecution wing of NAB. Further hearing was adjourned till Nov 3.
NAB has alleged that former chairman of Pakistan International Airlines “Aijaz Haroon and Saleem Mandviwalla, in connivance with each other, embezzled the government land through illegal and fraudulent allotment, and received illegal and unlawful gains of Rs144.2 million from fake bank accounts namely A-One International and Lucky International under the garb of business deal or property transaction with Abdul Ghani Majeed, the chief executive officer of Omni Group”.
Published in Dawn, October 22nd, 2021