close
Saturday June 22, 2024

SC dismisses KP govt's request to live stream NAB amendment case

Apex court rejects KP advocate general's plea with Justice Athar Minallah disagreeing with majority verdict

By Abdul Qayyum Siddiqui
May 30, 2024
A general view of the Supreme Court of Pakistan in Islamabad. — Reuters/File
A general view of the Supreme Court of Pakistan in Islamabad. — Reuters/File

ISLAMABAD: In a key development, the Supreme Court Thursday dismissed the plea filed by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government seeking live streaming of the hearing of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) amendment case.

The application, filed by KP advocate general, was rejected by the apex court in a 4-1 verdict with Justice Athar Minallah disagreeing with the majority judgement.

The development comes as the SC is hearing the intra-court appeals filed by the federal and provincial governments against the NAB amendments struck down by the top court.

The case is being heard by a five-member SC larger bench headed by Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa and comprising Justice Amin-ud-Din Khan, Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail, Justice Minallah and Justice Hasan Azhar Rizvi.

During the previous hearing on May 16, which wasn't broadcast live, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf's (PTI) incarcerated founder Imran Khan appeared before the court via video link after the former prime minister expressed his wish to present his own arguments in the case.

However, the ex-PM's appearance, his first in the apex court since his arrest last year from Zaman Park in Toshakhana reference, didn't go without controversy as the SC administration announced launching an investigation after his image, while appearing before the court, was leaked on social media.

Today's hearing

Before the commencement of the hearing today, Justice Minallah had called for the live streaming of the proceedings of the said case.

"The [hearing of] case should be broadcast live since this was the case before as well," the judge said.

As the hearing was about to start, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa advocate general apprised the court that the provincial government had filed a request seeking a live broadcast of the case.

"This is a case of public interest," he said.

"This is a technical case and not one of public interest," CJP Isa said while responding to the KP advocate general's remarks.

The court then took a break with the judges consulting on the issue of live streaming of the case proceedings.

After announcing the verdict on live streaming, the court then resumed the proceeding on the intra-court appeals.

At the end of today's hearing, CJP Isa inquired PTI founder Khan whether he himself wanted to present the arguments in the said case as it is a technical one and how much time would need to complete them.

To this, the former premier complained that he was unable to access any necessary material as he is currently in solitary confinement.

He further maintained that the said case holds key significance as it is a matter of "supreme national interest".

Hearing this, the CJP assured Khan that all the relevant material would be provided to him along with the measures aimed at the provision of the legal team's assistance.

The chief justice then turned to the PTI founder's counsel Khawaja Haris and asked how many lawyers would like to meet the incarcerated ex-PM.

However, the top judge warned against misusing the facility and said: "Do not take 50 people with you."

In response to Haris's reassurance of adhering to the instructions, the court then allowed him to meet the PTI founder in jail along with two other lawyers of his choice.

At this point, Khan requested the court to raise another issue i.e., fixing his two petitions that are pending before the court.

"Who is your lawyer in those cases?" inquired the CJP.

"He is a senior lawyer. We will take this matter up with him," CJP Isa said in response to Khan's response that Hamid Khan was his lawyer in those cases.

Additionally, the former premier once again reiterated his narrative of election manipulation and rigging in the February 8 poll while terming it as the "biggest robbery of the public mandate".

"We have the NAB amendment case before us," the chief justice responded.

Separately, Justice Minallah, while addressing the attorney general of Pakistan, told him to convey to the prime minister that "there were no black sheep within the judiciary".

"We are not black sheep [but instead] we are black bumblebees [...] tell the PM to file a reference against black sheep [in the judiciary]," Justice Minallah said.

The judge's remarks refer to PM Shehbaz Sharif's comments, made during the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz's (PML-N) general council meeting on May 28, wherein he said that some black sheep within the judiciary were helping the PTI founder.

The court then adjourned the hearing till next week.

What is NAB amendments case?

A three-member bench of the SC, in September 2023, had approved former prime minister Khan’s petition challenging amendments made to the country’s accountability laws during the tenure of the previous Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM)-led government.

Headed by then-chief justice Umar Ata Bandial, and comprising Justice Mansoor Ali Shah and Justice Ijazul Ahsan, the court held more than 50 hearings and in its majority 2-1 verdict restored graft cases against public office holders that were closed down following the amendments.

The apex court ordered restoring all graft cases worth less than Rs500 million that were closed down against the political leaders belonging to different political parties and public office holders and declared the amendments void.

The verdict provisions far-reaching consequences as the striking down of the amendments would mean that references against some of the country’s political bigwigs will once again land in the accountability courts.

These include the Toshakhana reference against Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan Peoples Party Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari and former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, along with the LNG reference against former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and the rental power reference against another ex-premier Raja Pervez Ashraf.

Following the verdict, the federal government filed an appeal against the apex court order.