ISLAMABAD: Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Accountability Irfan Qadir on Thursday hinted that the superior courts judges could be tried by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) if they were found involved in corruption.

“There is no sacred cow and the judges of superior courts can also be tried under recently amended National Accountability Ordinance,” he said in a press conference.

The parliament has recently passed a law to curtail the suo motu powers of the chief justice through the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Act, 2023.

“There is only one category and that is our superior court judges for whom confusion was created [with regard to laws] as the old law said their [judges] matters were to be referred to the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC),” he said.

He, however, said: “Today I want to clarify that, yes, [judges’] matters do go to the SJC. But, where there are elements of corruption that attract criminality — that require criminal proceedings — it is there that they can be tried under this [accountability] law.”

Irfan Qadir claims judicial system being ‘manipulated’ by certain people

Mr Qadir said that in the past several years, even prime ministers were disqualified and their governments were lost.

Talking about audio leaks on social media in February, allegedly linked to a sitting Supreme Court judge, he said the government exercised “extreme caution” to form the commission comprising fellow judges to investigate the matter.

“This was a fair opportunity provided to the judges to prove their innocence. If the commission’s report had come out favourable then the matter would not have been referred to the Supreme Judicial Council or the anti-corruption institutions,” he added.

The leaked audios were claimed to contain conversations between the judge and prominent politicians as well as specific lawyers. On May 20, the government formed a three-judge commission under Justice Qazi Faez Isa to investigate the veracity of the clips. Within days, a five-judge bench of the apex court halted the panel’s proceedings.

The SAPM said it appeared that the judicial system was being “manipulated by certain people on the outside” and that “there were indications of an element of corruption”.

“The government and the parliamentarians tried their best to protect the apex courts from the allegations against the chief [justice],” he said, adding that no one has the fundamental right to stop law-making.

The bill, titled the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Bill 2023, was aimed at depriving the office of the CJP of powers to take suo motu notice in an individual capacity.

The top court — while hearing three petitions challenging the then-bill — in an “anticipatory injunction” on April 13, barred the government from enforcing the draft law, saying the move would “prevent the imminent apprehended danger that is irreparable” as soon as it became an act of parliament.

Published in Dawn, June 9th, 2023

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