ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Thursday disposed of as withdrawn, petitions against the Sindh High Court (SHC), rejecting post-arrest bails in a corruption reference of Rs5.76 billion against former Sindh information minister Sharjeel Memon and others.
A three-member bench of the apex court headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa heard appeals against the SHC rejection of post-arrest bails in the corruption reference against Sharjeel Memon and other co-accused.The court after hearing arguments of both the parties disposed of the petitions as withdrawn on the requests of counsels for the petitioners.
The court accepted the request made by Sardar Latif Khosa, counsel for Sharjeel Memon, and Faisal Siddique, counsel for the accused of an advertising agency, with the direction that the petitioners may approach the SHC by filing fresh grounds in their pending bail applications.
Latif Khosa in his rebuttal rejected the allegations of the NAB prosecutor against Sharjeel Memon and requested for withdrawing his petitions and to pursue the pending bail application with the SHC on medical grounds. The counsel submitted that he wanted to file fresh grounds for bail application in the high court which the court accepted.
The apex court also disposed of the petitions as withdrawn filed by the accused member of an advertising agency, to which advertisement campaign was awarded by the Sindh Information Department.
The apex court was seized with the matter of embezzlement in awarding advertisements to electronic media concerning the Sindh government’s public awareness campaigns. Additional Prosecutor NAB Nasir Mughal gave details to the court about the investigation conducted regarding corruption and corrupt practices in the award of advertisements to television and FM radio channels concerning awareness campaign carried out by Sindh Information Department. Between July 2013 and June 2015, an amount of Rs5.76 billion was paid to seven advertisement agencies. He submitted that Sharjeel Memon illegally approved the release of official advertisements to the electronic media through so-called, pre-qualified advertising agencies without completing the due process.
To a court query, the NAB prosecutor contended that there was no document available in the department, building up an approval by the provincial minister for information regarding proposed media plan, adding that the minister was directly approached for the approval. He said that a deputy director was working as director in the department and involved in the whole process and coordinating with the minister, and there was no official order in this regard.
Justice Asif Saeed Khosa asked why the secretary Information Department remained silent on the process. “Silence of the secretary is a crime,” Justice Khosa remarked, adding that in our society, remaining silent is an omission.
The NAB additional prosecutor alleged that two radio channels were awarded advertisements at a rate of Rs400 per minute but the bill was approved against it at the rate Rs12,500. The court questioned how that happened and how the minister can approve such a bill. The NAB prosecutor submitted that instead of approval form the cabinet, the minister gave direct approval.
Latif Khosa rejected the allegations of the NAB and said that it was a period when terrorism was on its peak and the provincial government was trying to create a soft image of Pakistan abroad for which an awareness campaign through advertisements was launched.
“It’s good, but how Rs12,500 can be charged against Rs400 per minute,” Justice Khosa asked Latif Khosa. Iftikhar Gilani, counsel for former provincial information secretary, contended that there was no allegation of connivance in corruption against his client. He said the only allegation against his client was that he was a member of the committee that had sanctioned the advertisement campaign.
The counsel said that his client had been in jail since Oct 25, 2017, when his bail was rejected by the high court. Of the 52 witnesses in this case, he contended that none had completed their statements, even though the NAB law asks for trial to be completed within 30 days.
“In oar’s society silence is being considered as an omission,” Justice Khosa remarked and added in lighter tone that even marriages are contracted silently. “But I am in jail and how can I verify the things while there are 52 witnesses whose statements are not yet completed,” Iftikhar Gilani contended, adding that the jail is a terrible place.