PESHAWAR: An accountability court here on Friday returned to the National Accountability Bureau a reference against nine officials of education department, Bannu, over the alleged involvement in illegal appointment of primary school teachers, citing the last year’s changes to the relevant law as the reason.

Judge Shahid Khan ruled that the court didn’t have jurisdiction to deal with the matter in the changed circumstances.

The court also disposed of applications of the accused for acquittal before the conclusion of trial, observing that it didn’t have jurisdiction on the matter, so order for their release would be ‘nullity in the eyes of the law’.

It ruled that the prosecution had failed to produce any cogent and reliable evidence to substantiate personal gain and monetary benefit on part of accused in respect of those recruitment, so it could be safely observed that jurisdiction of the court in view of the amendments in the law was lacking.

Declares it no more has jurisdiction to hear matter due to changes to law last year

The NAB had claimed that the accused, including former district education officer of Bannu Saraf Ali Shah, deputy DEO (female) Asmat Ara, superintendent Umer Nawaz and others, were involved in gross illegalities and irregularities in the appointment of primary school teachers in 2012 as improper scrutiny of the testimonials of the candidates coupled with the production of fake and fabricated certificates had taken place.

The accused had filed petitions under Section 265-K of the Code of Criminal procedure, which empowers the trial court to acquit an accused at any stage of the trial when there seems to be no probability of his conviction on basis of available evidence.

Barrister Yaseen Raza Khan and Hazik Ali Shah appeared for the petitioners and contended that various important changes were made in the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO), 1999, through the National Accountability (Amendment) Ordinance, 2021.

They said changes were made to Section 4 of the NAO, which provided that the law should not be applicable procedural lapses in any government work unless it was shown that a holder of public office or any other person had received any monetary or other material benefit, directly or indirectly, on account of such lapses.

Barrister Yaseen contended that in the current changed circumstances, which emerged after the promulgation of the said ordinance, no case could be constituted for the want of personal gain on part of his clients and therefore, they deserved to be acquitted.

He said during investigation followed by the trial, tangible evidence couldn’t be collected to show personal gains on part of the petitioners from the alleged irregularity and that was confirmed bythe statements of the prosecution witnesses.

The court ruled that the close perusal of the records would transpire that during the investigation, positive evidence had not been brought on record, which could prima facie spoke of the monitory or material benefit on part of the accused in respect of the slip shots so surfaced in selection, recruitment and appointment of 213 PSTs (female).

“Undoubtedly, the Investigation Officer did prima facie fixed responsibility of criminal negligence in appointment of the accused as to overlooked fake and fabricated educational credentials, CNICs, domicile certificates etc., awarding exaggerated marks and on its strength procure recruitment and appointment if the PSTs but the investigation is silent to the extent of personal gain by misuse of authority by the accused amounts to loss to the exchequer,” it declared.

Published in Dawn, April 23rd, 2022

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