ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice Umer Ata Bandial Friday observed that election itself is a source of accountability, whereby voters make accountable their representatives in the assemblies.
A three-member SC bench, headed by CJ Bandial and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, heard the petition of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan, challenging the amendments made by the coalition government to the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999.
The CJP directed Khwaja Haris, counsel for the PTI chairman, to submit a concise statement and formulations so that they might be able to save time for adjudicating upon other matters, filed by the litigants.
Additional Attorney General Aamir Rehman informed the court that the federal government had hired the services of advocate Makhdoom Ali Khan to represent it in the matter under challenge. He, however, said he too would be assisting the court in the matter.
The court asked Makhdoom Ali Khan to submit his concise statement and formulations. He informed the court that he had already prepared it. At the start of hearing, CJ Bandial asked Khwaja Haris that as per media reports, some new amendments have been made to the NAB Ordinance, and further inquired as to whether the counsel for the petitioner had placed it on record with the current matter. Khwaja Haris replied that he had filed some additional formulations in that regard.
Justice Mansoor Ali Shah, another member of the bench, asked the counsel if he was to challenge the new amendment, he would be required to make amendment to the first petition.
Chief Justice asked Makhdoom Ali Khan whether he would submit reply on the new amendment to the LAB law. However, he submitted that he would not submit his reply as he contended that unless it did not become an Act of Parliament, it could not be challenged.
The counsel submitted that if the president avoids signing the new amendment bill, then the matter would go to the joint session of the Parliament. Kh Haris submitted that at the moment, they were not going to challenge the new amendments made to the NAB Ordinance, adding that amendment made by the government were against the constitutional mandate.
The counsel, however, submitted that amendments which were against the basic structure of the Constitution could be made. CJ Bandial observed that election itself was a source of accountability, whereby voters make accountable their public representatives. “Your arguments were that making assets beyond means should be brought in the domain of accountability, which was mentioned in the fundamental rights,” the CJP asked Khwaja Haris.
The CJP added that the arguments of the counsel for the petitioner also were that the new amendments had washed away the facility available earlier under the international treaty rights, by providing mutual legal assistance in the offences made by individuals, transfer of property as well as plea bargaining.
Justice Mansoor Ali Shah asked the counsel for the petitioner that his argument was that no amendments could be made which were against the basic structure of the Constitution. Kh Haris replied in affirmative, adding that as per the new amendment, the evidence collected against the accused through mutual legal assistance from abroad would not be admissible before the local court.
Justice Ijazul Ahsen asked as to whether specific persons could be given amnesty by enacting a new law. The counsel replied that even Hazrat Umar Farooq (RA) was questioned in this regard.
Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah asked the counsel for the petitioner usually the opposition benches in parliament oppose the legislation, made by the treasury benches. “If you consider that the new law is wrong, then why don’t you move a bill in the assembly,” Justice Mansoor asked Kh Haris, adding that if the new law was against the basic structure of the Constitution, then instead of the court, the matter should be debated in the parliament.
“People elect you and send you to parliament, but you walk out. Your constituency voted for you, but you left the parliament,” Justice Mansoor Ali asked Khwaja Haris. The counsel, however, replied that his client did not walk out but tendered resignations en masse.
Mansoor Ali Shah again asked the counsel as to whether a member of the parliament takes permission from the constituency from where he was elected before resigning from the assembly membership. Kh Haris replied that elected representatives resign in lieu of political strategy and in line with the party’s decisions.
Meanwhile, Makhdoom Ali Khan submitted that the court was being made the third chamber of the Parliament, adding that he had fought many cases and the learned judges were well aware of the nature of asset beyond means related cases. The counsel submitted that instead of approving the NAB amendment bill, the president wrote a letter to the prime minister by sending his own proposals for the amendments.
Makhdoom Ali Khan told the court that the secret letter, written by the president to prime minister, was part of Imran Khan’s petition, challenging the amendments made to the NAB Ordinance.
“Imran Khan should be asked as to why he was in favour of these amendments earlier, and why he was opposing those now,” Makhdoom Ali Khan questioned, adding that if it was Imran Khan’s political strategy, then for that purpose, he should approach another forum instead of court.
During the hearing, a representative from the National Accountability Bureau told the court that they would adopt the arguments of the Attorney General. The court, however, asked NAB to submit a concise statement in this regard, and adjourned the hearing until August 19.
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