Tuesday October 04, 2022

NAB court has jurisdiction to hear fraud cases, rules judge

September 23, 2022

KARACHI: An accountability court has dismissed an application questioning its jurisdiction to hear a reference filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) against two builders for allegedly cheating the public at large through a housing project.

Adam Khan Jokhio and his son Lal Muhammad Jokhio were booked by the national graft buster on charges of defrauding around 1,100 allottees of plots in the Gulshan-e-Dozan housing project.

Accountability Judge-IV Suresh Kumar announced his verdict after hearing arguments from defence and prosecution sides. He set September 27 for the indictment of the father-son duo, who were directed to ensure their presence at the next hearing.

Adam Jokhio moved the application under Section 4 of the National Accountability (Amendment) Act, 2022 requesting the court to halt the proceedings against him and his son in the wake of the recent amendments made to the NAB law.

The judge noted the present application had been filed on the premise that the case pertaining to the accused persons’ failure to hand over the possession of plots to the allottees in a housing project falls within the jurisdiction of the Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA); therefore, the reference should be returned to NAB under the amended law.

He said the accused allegedly committed a fraud at large in collusion with each other, attracting Section 9(x)(xii) of the NAB law. From the bare reading of the above section, the judge said, it was crystal clear that the “NAB Ordinance/Act, being a special law, has overriding effect upon all the other laws; therefore, this court has got jurisdiction to proceed [with] the matter of cheating at large, though it may also fall within the jurisdiction of any other forum.” The NAB prosecutor, RD Kalhoro, opposing the plea, stated that the NAB law has an “overriding effect” on the other laws under Section 16 of the Act and the offence of cheating public at large is still a schedule offence that falls within the jurisdiction of this court and is punishable Section 10 of the accountability law.

Advocate Haq Nawaz Talpur argued that the court lacked the jurisdiction to hear the case and pleaded with it to return the reference to the bureau. According to the reference, the accused had allegedly launched a housing project, Gulshan-e-Dozan, on 70 acres, estimated at Rs3.5 billion, in 1992 and collected millions of rupees from allottees. Later, the builders split the same piece of land where another builder launched a separate project. It said that in 2013 Adam Jokhio had submitted an undertaking to the SBCA to address the grievance of the affected persons, but till date he had failed to do so.