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September 12, 2019

There should be ground for grant of remand by AC judges

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September 12, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The judges of the accountability courts need to thoroughly examine whether there are reasonable and substantial grounds to grant physical remand of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) accused and should not treat it as a routine matter.

“Legally speaking, every judge seized with such function must meticulously see and ensure that the grounds furnished by the investigating agency to seek the physical remand of an accused are convincing and plausible,” former President of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) Syed Ali Zafar told The News when contacted.

Another prominent lawyer Kashif Malik echoed precisely the same opinion and said it was obligatory for the judges to take into consideration the fact that there were sufficient sound reasons, justifying the demand for remand or its extension. Ali Zafar said that technically the accountability judges have the power to grant physical remand of the NAB accused, but the natural justice calls for their complete indulgence to minutely look at the veracity of such pleas.

However, what is happening is that the accountability judges readily hand over the accused to the NAB for investigation and conveniently keep expanding the physical remand period till ninety days as provided in the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO). “The judges have the powers to decline physical remand concluding that the reasons advanced by the investigators are flimsy and flawed and there is no need to keep the accused in the NAB custody.”

The lawyer said he did not remember even a single case when an accountability judge refused the physical remand of a NAB accused. There are many cases when the accused persons had been appearing before the NAB teams for questioning, but still the investigators arrested them and continuously got their physical remand.

Ali Zafar said the primary objective of approaching the accountability judges by NAB again and again for extension of remand duration is that the judicial officers are able to appreciate whether realistic and judicious grounds exist to let the investigating agency to have the accused in its custody further. “The judges’ job is to hear both sides and then take a decision about the remand request. However, they without fail grant it, mostly for the period NAB has asked for.”

To a question, the former SCBA president said it did not appear good that a judge who has heard the defence team’s arguments pressing bail plea of an accused be abruptly transferred. “Such a move offers bad optics.”

He was asked about the sudden change of the judge of the Special Court (Control of Narcotics Substances) , Masood Arshad, who was hearing the heroin smuggling case against member of the National Assembly Rana Sanaullah.

Ali Zafar said that purely legally speaking the Lahore High Court (LHC) has the powers to transfer the judges for any reasons, but the best practice would be if the judicial officers, who were to be shifted elsewhere, were given one-month notice so that they can dispose of the work before them.

He said when the judges were appointed for a specific period, cogent reasons need to be cited for removing them before the expiration of their tenure. He said that no particular judge should be changed because of any specific case.

Kashif Malik said a number of accused held by the NAB in its custody on physical remand for months have been claiming that they have not been asked any questions, no investigation was being carried out and they were just locked up. He said that high courts keeping transferring judges every day and added that as per the laid down principle no special court judge should be transferred before the end of his specified term.

The lawyer said the judges of the special courts were generally appointed for three years. But there are cases when the concerned high court transferred some of them before time, he said.

Kashif Malik said that for every judge every case is equally important and no trial is high profile even though it may involve important figures, political or social. The judges are to act as per the law, he said.

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