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Karachi

March 21, 2017

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SHC referee judge reserves verdict on Dr Asim’s bail plea

SHC referee judge reserves verdict on Dr Asim’s bail plea

The Sindh High Court’s referee judge reserved his judgement on Monday on the bail applications of former petroleum minster Dr Asim Hussain in the corruption cases against him. The referee judge had to be appointed after a split verdict by an SHC division bench on the bail issue.

The SHC chief justice had appointed Justice Aftab Ahmed Gorar as a referee judge to decide the bail applications following split judgement.

One judge had dismissed the bail with directives to the trial court to conclude the trial within four months. Another member of the bench had granted him bail but placed a ban on his travelling abroad.

Dr Asim, a close aide of former president and PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari, faces corruption references pertaining to land fraud amounting to Rs9.5 billion, money laundering of Rs3 billion, and misuse of authority and criminal breach of trust through a fertiliser scam of Rs450 billion. NAB had also accused him of illegally awarding gas contracts to a privately-managed gas processing company, Jamshoro Joint Venture Limited, to process gas from government-owned gas fields without an open auction, causing a loss of Rs17.338billion to the national exchequer.

The referee judge reserved the order after hearing the closing arguments of the counsel for the petitioner and NAB.

Justice Syed Mohammad Farooq Shah, who was head of the SHC division bench earlier, had dismissed the bail applications of Dr. Asim in corruption reference and observed that perusal of the record revealed that offence committed by the accused person was a crime against society as whole, in connection with the public offices and he is not involved in any ordinary criminal matter.

Justice Shah observed that case of the petitioner fell within the exception as prima facie there was material on the record “to connect him with the commission of the offence”. “I may tentatively assess that prosecution indeed succeeded in establishing a case of dismissal of bail under relevant provision of NAO, 1999 and within ambit of section 497 (i) Cr.P.C,” Justice Shah observed.

He added that petitioner being a senior doctor had been accommodated with excellent treatment and hospitalisation on the recommendation of a medical board. 

Justice Shah observed in his judgment that petitioner, who was already in hospital, had been receiving proper treatment from reputed senior doctors in renowned hospitals of the country therefore there was no compelling reasons to enlarge the petitioner on bail at this stage when the petitioner was facing serious charges.  

On the contention raised by the petitioner’s counsel that petitioner had high class status, Justice Shah observed that in Islam, the Constitution and law as well deviation from the path of the justice was not allowed even when it concern to a poor or rich or one’s opponent or enemy and all citizens are to be treated alike indiscriminately leaving aside their status or high/low position in the society. 

Justice Shah had dismissed the bail application and observed that it is expected from trial court to expedite the trial proceedings and decide the NAB references at an earliest preferably within four months by recording the depositions of all material witnesses on day to day basis under intimation to the court.

Another member of the bench, Justice Mohammad Karim Khan Agha, had however granted bail to Dr Asim on medical ground observing that sickness or ailment with which the petitioner was suffering from was such that it could not be properly treated within premises of the jail and specialised treatment was needed. Justice Agha observed that his continued detention in jail was likely to affect his capacity and was hazardous to his life in both references.

Justice Agha observed that in bail cases it was a settled law that refusal of bail should not be a punishment and the object of bail was to ensure that the accused attended his trial which might be ensured by the court passing appropriate orders. Justice Agha granted bail to Dr Asim with a surety of Rs.2.5 million each in two references subject to depositing his passport before Nazir of the court as well as direction to the interior ministry to place the name of petitioner on the ECL.

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