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July 25, 2019

Court dismisses NAB’s ‘astonishing request’ for ‘discharging accused for the time being’

Karachi

July 25, 2019

The accountability courts’ administrative judge on Wednesday dismissed the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) request to ‘discharge for the time being’ the director of Ocean View Pvt Ltd, Abbass Ali Agha, from the Nehr-e-Khayyam plot case.

Agha was arrested in January on the allegations that he colluded with former Sindh Building Control Authority director-general Manzoor Qadir Kaka in the illegal sale of a plot on Nehr-e-Khayyam in Clifton Block 5 to the Park View Ltd for Rs1.2 billion.

The judge, Dr Sher Bano Karim, directed NAB to tell within three days whether it was proceeding with the reference against the accused or closing the case. She observed that the NAB request was “astonishing and strange” specifically when the reference had already been signed on the basis of collected evidence and material.

On July 10, NAB Karachi Director General Farooq Naseem Awan had told the court that the filing of a reference over the illegal sale of land on Nehr-e-Khayyam had been delayed because the NAB chairman had decided to file the case in an accountability court in Islamabad.

However, on July 18, Awan requested the court to “discharge Agha for the time being without absolving him from criminal liability under the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) and if deemed appropriate on the basis of incriminating material/evidence collected through re-investigation, the accused shall be prosecuted accordingly.”

The judge remarked that when the court directed Awan to explain the upshot of the reference signed by the NAB chairman, he stated that the investigation along with all the material, including the original signed reference, had been transferred to the NAB Rawalpindi.

Citing Habib vs the State 1983 SCMR 370 and Khan Asfandyar Wali vs Federation of Pakistan PLD 2001 SC 607, the judge said if NAB found no evidence against the accused, it was required to release the accused under the Section 169 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (release accused when evidence deficient).

She added that neither had NAB applied for any provision of the NAO to support their move nor did the law permit the release of the accused at this stage. The judge said the accused may approach the proper forum for redressal of his fundamental rights.

Agha was remanded in NAB custody on January 30. He was remanded again on February 12. On March 2, he was sent to jail on judicial remand.

NAB informed the court on June 1 that a reference against the accused had been sent to its headquarters for the approval. Later, on June 11, the federal anti-graft watchdog submitted that the NAB chairman had approved the reference but its filing was delayed due to a scrutiny of record at the bureau.

During the hearings on June 17, June 25 and July 8, NAB requested the court each time to grant more time to file the reference.

The anti-graft watchdog informed the court on July 10 that its chairman had decided to file the reference in Islamabad. On July 18, the bureau requested the court to discharge the accused for the time being.

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