Sunday September 26, 2021

SHC dismisses Khursheed Shah’s bail plea in assets case

KARACHI: The Sindh High Court on Tuesday dismissed bail petition filed by former opposition leader and Pakistan People Party MNA Syed Khurheed Ahmed Shah in National Accountability Bureau’s reference pertaining to asset beyond income and directed trial court to decide the case within six months.

Issuing detailed order on bail petition, the court observed that it is high time that standards are set and a system put in place to develop a culture of accountability at all levels to cleanse the system and institutions from corruption, loot and plunder of national resources by a few irrespective of their status in the system.

The former opposition leader in National Assembly and MNA Syed Khursheed Shah and other co-accused were investigated by the NAB in an inquiry for accumulation of assets beyond source of income. According to the NAB, Khursheed Shah and other co-accused during the period from 2005, 2008 to 2019, earned Rs.67,488,907 from their known source of income viz salary and businesses but the properties that were purchased by him under his name and those of his heirs and benamidars during such period were beyond their income and without any justification.

The NAB alleged that Shah and other co-accused during such period accumulated assets to the tune of Rs.715,743,751 through ill-gotten money and failed to justify this earning. The prosecution alleged that the accused opened bank accounts in his name and that of his dependents through which huge amounts were credited illegally and later with connivance of co-accused disguised the true nature of transactions and launched the crime proceeds for sale and purchase of 12 immovable properties.

The SHC’s division bench headed by Justice Shamsuddin Abbasi after hearing the arguments of the counsel and perusal of the trial court record observed that charge could not be framed for one reason or the other such as absence of one accused or the other who were on bail, non-production of custody of petitioner, initiating proceedings against absconders and filing of miscellaneous applications. The bench observed that the record of the trial court reflected that the case was adjourned due to absence of one accused or the other and adjournments sought on behalf of co-accused. The court also observed that in a case where adjournments were sought on behalf of the accused, they intentionally choose to remain absent on the dates of hearing on one pretext or the other. Such conduct from the accused side, the bench said can be taken note of and bail can be refused on ground of statutory delay.

The court after perusal of hospital record of the petitioner observed that it is surprising to note that a person who is enjoying all possible facilities in the hospital since the date of his judicial remand has not sought his release on bail on grounds of his ill-health, which shows that petitioner was not suffering from any life threatening disease and he was enjoying normal life in NICVD Sukkur, which was declared as sub-jail by the government perhaps due to his political influence.

The court observed that how can the court consider the case of the petitioner on grounds of hardship like any other case wherein the accused is rotting in jail and facing real hardship inside a prison, more particularly when petitioner did not remain inside jail for a single day, which leaves question mark hanging over our system that how a person can take undue advantage owing to his political influence.

The court observed that the Supreme Court in the recent past has imposed special duty upon courts to perform their duties actively, diligently to eliminate corruption and corrupt practices. The court observed that it is high time that standards are set and system put in place to develop a culture of accountability of all levels in order to cleanse over system and institutions from the evil of corruption, loot and plunder of national resources by a few irrespective of their status in the system.

The court observed that petitioner was not entitled to the grant of post arrest bail and documentary as well as oral evidence in shape of statement of witnesses was sufficient to connect the petitioner prima facie with alleged offence. The court dismissing the bail petition directed the trial court to expedite the trial without allowing any adjournment on any flimsy ground and complete it as quickly as possible preferable within a period of six months.

The petitioner's counsel earlier submitted that his client was incarcerated for last two years without any substantial evidence. He submitted that prosecution placed 44 witnesses in the case which could take sufficient time to be examined before the trial court and it would be unjust for the petitioner to keep behind bars without completion of the trial and sought bail on ground of hardship and statutory delay in trial.

Opposing the bail petition of the PPP leader, the NAB's special prosecutor submitted that petitioner remained admitted in the National Institute Of Cardio Vascular Diseases after initiation of the inquiry and there was no delay on behalf of NAB in the inquiry.

The NAB's counsel submitted that case pertained to accumulation of assets beyond known source of income through corruption and corrupt practices and sufficient documentary proof with ocular evidence in shape of statements of witnesses were available on record which substantiated the allegations leveled against the petitioner in the reference. He submitted that charge has already been framed and the case was ripe for evidence and there was every possibility of the trial being concluded in near future and as such the petitioner does not deserve concession of bail on the ground of hardship for the reason that government has decided NIVCD as sub-jail.