PTI Chairman Imran Khan had challenged in Supreme Court amendments made to the NAB Ordinance
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has asked the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) counsel to advance his arguments as to how the amendments made to the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) 1999 have diluted the law and how fundamental rights of citizens have been infringed upon.
A three-member bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice Umer Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsen and Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, heard the petition of PTI Chairman Imran Khan, challenging the amendments made by the coalition government to the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999, on Tuesday.
In June, PTI Chairman Imran Khan had challenged in the Supreme Court the amendments made to the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) 1999 and had requested the top court to adjudicate upon a question of great public importance with reference to the enforcement of fundamental rights of citizens under Article 9 (security of a person), Article 14 that relates to the inviolability of the dignity of man, Article 19 (right to information), Article 24 (protection of property rights) and Article 25 (equality of citizens).
During the course of proceedings on Tuesday, the chief justice asked Khwaja Haris, counsel for the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, how much time he would take to conclude his arguments. Khwaja Haris replied that in Asfandyar Wali Khan’s case, each and every provision of the NAB was thoroughly discussed. Hence, he submitted that he would conclude his arguments in two days.
The counsel submitted that the federation and the NAB were required to file their respective concise statements. Makhdoom Ali Khan, counsel for the Federation, said that he had already submitted a concise statement to the court on behalf of the government.
Chief Justice Umer Ata Bandial said that the NAB had already informed the court that it would adopt the arguments of attorney-general. The chief justice said that they would look into the matter specifically as to whether the impugned amendments had infringed upon the fundamental rights of citizens.
“You have to tell us how amendments made to the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) 1999 have diluted the law and how fundamental rights have been infringed upon.” Khwaja Haris submitted that, since Sept 1, 2022, a large number of references pending with the accountability courts throughout Pakistan had been returned to the National Accountability Bureau, as, in the light of the amendments which had been impugned in the titled Petition, the accountability courts no longer had jurisdiction to try these cases. He said that there were numerous pending enquiries and investigations which had been or were in the process of being similarly wound up in the light of the provisions introduced to NAO by the impugned amendments.
The counsel informed the court that during the financial years 2018–19, 2019–2020 and 20–21, the NAB had, in terms of incurring expenses for inquiring into, investigating, and prosecuting references pertaining to offences falling under the NAO, 1999, utilised a total sum of Rs18 billion for filing and prosecuting these cases.
The counsel submitted that pursuant to the impugned amendments to the law, this entire sum of Rs18 billion of public money had gone down the drain. The PTI counsel gave the historical perspective of the NAB law and argued for the laws made during the successive governments.
According to Khwaja Haris, the NAB law was intended to hold public representatives and high officials accountable for their actions. In this respect, the learned counsel recalled that in Asfandyar Wali Khan’s case, the court had discussed in detail all the provisions of the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) 1999.
The counsel, while giving the historical background of the accountability process since 1947, argued that different laws were enacted during the successive governments while the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) of 1999 was an extension of these laws.
Chief Justice Umer Ata Bandial said that the court would examine in detail if the provisions and amendments made to the NAB law had violated the fundamental rights of citizens enshrined in the Constitution.
The CJP asked Khwaja Haris to tell them how the present amendments made to the NAO had diluted the law and how it had infringed upon the fundamental rights of citizens. Later, the court adjourned the hearing until Wednesday (today).