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July 24, 2019

SHC extends interim bail of former home minister in corruption inquiry

Karachi

July 24, 2019

The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Tuesday extended pre-arrest protective bail to former Pakistan Peoples Party MPA Manzoor Wassan in a corruption inquiry of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

Wassan, who also served as the Sindh home minister in the past, had moved the court for obtaining pre-arrest bail after receiving a call-up notice from NAB with regard to his assets and properties. His counsel Zamir Ghumro submitted that the petitioner was not involved in any corrupt practice.

A NAB prosecutor submitted that the inquiry against the former home minister pertaining to assets beyond known sources of income was under way. He requested the SHC to grant more time for the inquiry’s completion.

Granting time to the federal anti-graft watchdog, the SHC directed the NAB prosecutor to submit a progress report by September 9 and in the meantime, extended the interim pre-arrest bail of the petitioner.

Appeals disposed of

The SHC disposed of appeals of two men who had been convicted by an accountability court and observed that anti-corruption courts had no power to transfer the corruption case to accountability courts.

Faisal and Mohammad Rafi had filed appeals against their conviction by the accountability court in January 2019 in which they were sentenced to five years in imprisonment for transferring state land through forged documents.

According to the prosecution, the appellants were booked on the complaint of the revenue department under the anti-corruption law for illegally transferring government land in the Saddar area in favour of unauthorised

persons.

The appellants were first tried by an anti-corruption court, which after completing the trial proceedings, announced its judgment on December 22, 2016 holding that the property-in-question was a federal property belonging to the ministry of finance and as such only the accountability court had the jurisdiction to entertain the matter.

The anti-corruption court referred the matter to the accountability court under the section 16-A of NAB Ordinance, 1999 which admitted the case as reference and convicted the appellants on the basis of findings recorded by the anti-corruption court.

A counsel for the appellants, Khawaja Naveed Ahmed, argued at the very outset that the transfer of the case from the provincial anti-corruption court to the NAB court was illegal and void ab initio as the anti-corruption court had no such powers to refer the case on its own to the accountability court.

The lawyer submitted that the anti-corruption court passed its order without affording an opportunity of hearing to the appellants and the accountability court also did not frame charges under the NAB Ordinance, which

resulted into miscarriage of justice.

He submitted that cognisance of the offences against the appellants by the accountability court after transferring of the case was in violation of the Section 18 of the NAB ordinance as the accountability courts could not take cognisance of any offence under except on reference made by the chairman or an officer of NAB duly authorised by him. He submitted that in the present case, no such reference was filed by NAB against the appellants and the procedure adopted by both the courts was alien to law and had seriously prejudiced the right of a fair trial guaranteed under the Article 10-A of the Constitution to the appellants.

A NAB special prosecutor did not controvert the legal points raised by the defence counsel.

The SHC observed that there was no scheme under the NAB law providing powers to the accountability court to assume jurisdiction otherwise and start trying the cases which have been referred or transferred to it on any ground by the court already seized with the trial.

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