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July 26, 2020

NAB chief submits written reply: Courts are responsible for delayed accountability

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July 26, 2020

NAB chief submits written reply: Courts are responsible for delayed accountability

ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has requested the Supreme Court (SC) to set timelines for the appellate forums, granting stay against the proceedings of Accountability Courts that hampers the progress of trials.

The anti-graft body also requested the apex court that guidelines be set directing the Ministry of Law and Justice to finalise the name of the Accountability Judge within a period of 10 days besides enhancing the period of holding office of an accountability judge from three to five years to ensure continuity.

He also stated that stay orders issued by the High Courts in petitions filed by the accused are also one of the reasons behind the backlog in the disposal of cases. The former SC judge maintained that the courts do not follow the rules laid down by the Supreme Court in granting bails, adding that the process to declare an accused as absconder is also time-consuming. National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Chairman Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal submitted a report on Saturday in the apex court under his signature in pursuance of the court’s order passed on July 8, 2020. The court had directed the NAB prosecutor general to submit a report singed by NAB chairman, as to how the NAB proposes to deal with all pending cases and have them decided at the earliest.

Explaining the main reasons for delay in concluding trials in the assessment of NAB, the chairman submitted that defence files miscellaneous applications in which interlocutory orders are made by the courts, this result in stalling and delay in the main proceedings and hampers the progress of trials. The delay in mutual legal assistance from foreign destinations is also cited as one of the reasons. He informed the court that due to the wrong definition of ‘politically exposed personalities’ by the courts it becomes difficult to explain this to the foreign agencies. “To curb this tendency, timelines be set to decide such application and frivolous applications be dismissed with costs,” the NAB chairman submitted.

The NAB chairman further contended that to further complicate matters these orders are assailed with the appellate forums wherein at times stay orders are granted and resultantly the proceedings are suspended, therefore timelines be set to finalise these matters within the stipulated time. The NAB chairman requested the apex court to increase the strength of Accountability Courts as ordered by it the order day. He submitted that maximum increase be made at Lahore, Karachi, Rawalpindi/Islamabad and Balochistan and thereafter the balance strength be increased in the remaining Regions.

The NAB chairman further submitted that the NAO, 1999 vide-sub clause (g) of section 5 envisages that a judge of the Accountability Court shall be appointed by the President of Pakistan in consultation with the Chief Justice of the relevant High Court. However, this is a lengthy procedure, therefore, guidelines be set directing the Ministry of Law and Justice to finalise the name of the Accountability Judge within 10 days besides enhancing the period of holding office of an accountability judge from three to five years to ensure continuity. The court was informed that there are seven regions of the anti-graft body including Lahore, Karachi/Hyderabad, Rawalpindi/Islamabad, KP, Balochistan, Multan and Sukkur.

The Ministry of Law and Justice the other day while submitting its report in the apex court had given break up of pendency of 975 cases as collected from Registrars of Accountability Courts on July 22, 2020. It had submitted that there are 43 cases pending in Accountability Court in Lahore-1, 36 in Lahore-11, 52 in Lahore-111, 50 in Lahore-1V and 32 in Lahore-V. Similarly, 18 in Rawalpindi, 80 in Multan, 188 in Karachi, 38 in Hyderabad, 56 in Sukkar, 164 in Peshawar, 108 in Quetta and 110 in Islamabad.

On July, 23, a three-member bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed heard a case pertaining to delay in trial of cases by the Accountability Courts as well as suo motu review petition on court direction passed in cases, regarding grant of bail to co-accused, the court had directed the Ministry of Law and Justice to take approval from the Cabinet for establishing 120 new accountability courts across the country for early disposal of some 975 cases pending in different accountability courts. The court directed Secretary Law and Justice to take approval from the Cabinet and ensure commencement of appointment process of judges for the said accountability courts besides directing for establishing infrastructure for these new accountability courts. While Secretary Ministry of Law and Justice had submitted a report stating that an amount of Rs2.86 billion per annum would be required for establishment of 120 new accountability courts. The court was further informed that the Ministry is starting consultation with the relevant stakeholders for establishment of new accountability courts.

In its report, the NAB chairman submitted that there are about 1,226 references pending in the accountability courts. He submitted that under section 16(a) of the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999, a time frame of 30 days is set for conclusion of trial by the accountability court and it is required to conduct proceedings on day to day basis, however, with the present strength of accountability courts and the workload of cases pending adjudication before the accountability courts (on average each accountability court is currently handling 50 references), it is not possible to follow the 30-day timeline.