ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial said on Tuesday that after the recent amendments to the NAB law, there were definitive features in the law that have lessened the gravity of offences.
For instance, properties acquired in the name of family members or spouses had been taken out of the ambit of the act, and that the law now required concrete evidence to include family members as accused in a corruption reference, he said.
The CJP observed this while heading a three-judge bench that had taken up a challenge filed by former prime minister Imran Khan against the August 2022 amendments to the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO).
Justice Ijazul Ahsan, a bench member, said it would be very difficult to prove if the corruption reference was referred to the relevant forum after it was returned to NAB by the accountability courts.
Only five politicians among 41 acquitted after amendments, SC told
However, senior counsel Makhdoom Ali Khan, who represented the federal government, told the Supreme Court that the change of procedure in corruption references did not provide any right to the petitioner to substantiate the violation of the fundamental rights with that of procedure.
Khawaja Haris Ahmed, on behalf of the petitioner, also pleaded before the Supreme Court that the amendments to the law did not sanction what to do next after the reference was returned by accountability courts.
While citing several cases, Mr Khan argued that the petitioner for approaching the top judge directly had to cross the first threshold that the statute he had challenged was ex facie discriminatory and that his personal right had been infringed or he was representing on behalf of a certain class whose rights have been infracted and by filing the petition on their behalf such class would be benefitted and that the petitioner had acted in a bona fide manner.
The counsel said the amendments to the accountability law was not discriminatory, and the petitioner had to establish that they violated particular fundamental rights.
Moreover, if the statute was crafted in a manner that actions flowing out of it were capable of violating of the fundamental rights, then one has to wait for the particular action to be taken place.
The counsel also highlighted that though the jurisdiction of the apex court was enhanced during the period of former chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, the court was still careful to hold in the Tahirul Qadri case that the petitioner while approaching the court under Article 184(3) of the Constitution must be acting in a bona fide manner.
During the hearing, a chart was also presented before the SC, stating that 221 corruption references had so far been returned or transferred from all regions of the NAB office after the amendment ordinance of 2019 and 2020, of which 29 involved politicians and eight of those 29 were parliamentarians, whereas the total number of the accused was 1,201.
Likewise, 41 people have been acquitted after the amendments both through the 2019 ordinance and 2022 amendment acts; of them, five were politicians, including two were parliamentarians.
The chart explained that 11 references were filed against former prime minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf of which he was acquitted in two references whereas two references were returned under 2021 amendment ordinance and six references were returned under First amendment act of 2022.
Similarly, four references were filed against former Finance Minister and PTI Senator Shaukat Fayyaz Tareen of which two were returned under 2022 amendment act, whereas in two references he was acquitted.
Two references were filed against former prime minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani which was abated under second and third amendment ordinance of 2021 as well as 2022 amendment act.
Published in Dawn, February 22nd, 2023