ISLAMABAD, June 22: The Supreme Court directed the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on Friday to move ahead with its investigation into the NICL land scam and appointment of its former chairman Ayaz Khan Niazi in accordance with the law and without any fear or favour.

The order was issued by a three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Justice Jawwad S. Khwaja and Justice Khilji Arif Hussain hearing a case about alleged corruption in the affairs of National Insurance Company Limited.

S.M. Zafar, the counsel for Makhdoom Amin Fahim, said his client was innocent and asked the court to avoid making observations which might amount to directing the investigation. “When you do it who will not follow it,” he asked.

“Then let us close the case,” the chief justice remarked. But Mr Zafar said he just wanted justice to be done.

Justice Khwaja observed that gone were the days of injustice when there were different laws for the haves and have-nots. “There is no room for sentiments. We are here to uphold the Constitution with open heart.”

Director FIA Karachi Moazzam Jah submitted a report on progress in the investigation into purchase of 10 acres of land in Karachi by the NICL at an exorbitant price and transfer of millions of rupees from the account of Zafar Salim, a cousin of land seller Khwaja Akbar Butt, into the joint account of Amin Fahim, his son and wife.

He said that a loss of Rs490 million had been caused to the NICL and the entire amount had been recovered and deposited in the NICL account.

Commerce Secretary Zafar Mehmood conceded before the court that Ayaz Khan Niazi had been appointed as NICL chairman in violation of rules. No application from Mr Niazi was on record, he added.

He said a summary proposing three names, including those of civil servants Naveed Arif and Anisul Hasan Mousvi, had been moved by his ministry and the prime minister approved the name of Ayaz Khan Niazi. He said that an advertisement for the contract post was necessary, but it was not done.

The court noted that the appointment of Mr Niazi was not in accordance with the law which required a candidate to have direct experience of insurance business. “Rules are subservient to the statute. This is a public company as people have paid millions of rupees to keep it alive. You are to supervise it in a manner that has been specified by the legislature,” Justice Khwaja observed.

The chief justice said the NICL had an annual turnover of Rs6 billion and the case against Ayaz Khan Niazi should have been sent to NAB and the FIA by now.

This agitated Mr Niazi’s counsel Tariq Asad who complained that “I am being condemned unheard.” He said an impression was being created that his client was not eligible for the job.

“We are just asking questions,” the chief justice said.

But the counsel said that the proceedings were one-sided.

He said Mr Niazi had worked with leading banks at handsome salaries and stressed that management of funds had direct relevance with the insurance business.

Justice Khilji said: “He may be a very good banker but under section 12 of the insurance law, he is required to have direct relevance with the insurance business.”

The hearing was adjourned for one week.