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Al-Azizia verdict: Nawaz’s plea set for early hearing

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January 10, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday accepted the appeal of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif for early hearing of his petition seeking bail and suspension of his sentence in the Al-Azizia reference.

The Accountability Court-II Judge Arshad Malik had sentenced Nawaz Sharif to seven years in jail along with a fine of $25 million in Al-Azizia reference on Dec 24, 2018. The court, however, acquitted him in the Flagship Investment reference. A two-member divisional bench comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani heard Nawaz Sharif’s supplementary petition requesting the court to hear his plea against the seven-year jail term awarded to him in the Al Azizia reference at the earliest.

After hearing initial arguments, the IHC accepted the appeal for early hearing and directed the registrar office to fix the hearing within 10 days. On Tuesday, the IHC announced the reserved judgment on maintainability of Nawaz Sharif’s plea. The court remarked that unless the appeal was heard, the petitioner’s sentence could not be suspended.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court will also take up next week the appeal filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) against the suspension of the prison sentences of Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz in the Avenfield corruption reference. A five-member larger bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar and comprising Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, Justice Gulzar Ahmed, Justice Mushir Alam and Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel will hear the NAB appeal on Monday, January 14.

Last year in November, a three-member bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar while admitting the NAB appeal raised some points and later issued the order, placing the matter before a larger bench to be constituted by the Chief Justice of Pakistan. In September, a two-judge bench of the IHC comprising Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb heard the petitions filed by former premier Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Capt (retd) Safdar challenging the Avenfield verdict against them. The bench suspended the sentences handed to the three by Accountability Court Judge Muhammad Bashir on July 6. Nawaz, Maryam and Capt (retd) Safdar were sentenced to 11 years, eight years and one year, respectively, in prison in the Avenfield properties reference. The bench after issuing order of their release had directed the former premier, his daughter and son-in-law to submit bail bonds worth Rs0.5 million each. Later on, the anti-graft body filed an appeal in the Supreme Court which admitted the same for hearing.

In its appeal, the NAB had contended that the case had been seriously prejudiced by holding that the trial court judgement suffered from obvious and glaring defects and infirmities and that the convictions and sentences handed down to the accused might not be sustained ultimately.

Similarly, the Supreme Court after admitting the NAB appeal had raised some questions as to whether in a case where there is a statutory ouster of jurisdiction of courts to grant bail pending appeal, the constitutional jurisdiction to grant bail can be invoked on the same principles or grounds as are available under the general law. It had further questioned as to whether the judgment dated 03.08.2016 in CP No11618/2016 titled as “Mir Shahjahan Khan Khetran Vs NAB” and judgment dated 28.11.2014 passed in CP No1305/2014 titled as “Muhammad Arshad Vs Tassaduq Hussain @ Mittu and other” is per incuriam as per the ratio of the cases reported as Haji Ghulam Ali Vs The State through AG, NWFP, Peshawar and another (2003 SCMR 597), Abdul Aziz Khan Niazi Vs The State through Chairman, NAB, Islamabad (PLD 2003 SC 668) Olas Khan and others Vs Chairman NAB through Chairman and others (PLD 2018 SC 40) Peer Mukaram ul Haq Vs NAB through Chairman and others (2006 SCMR 1225).

And whether the scope of the constitutional jurisdiction for grant of bail during investigation and trial or release on bail by way of suspension of sentence is much wider than the scope of grant of bail under the general law, or otherwise.

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