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Tuesday January 31, 2023

SHC orders removal of Sharjeel’s name from ECL

October 05, 2022

The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Tuesday ordered the removal of Information Minister Sharjeel Inam Memon’s name from the exit control list (ECL). The minister, who was named as accused in the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) Rs5.78 billion corruption reference, had moved an application that his name be taken off of the ECL.

The applicant’s counsel said Memon was on bail in the case since June 25, 2019, but his name was placed on the ECL since then, and due to such restrictions, he was unable to travel abroad for the purpose of carrying out official visits.

He said the applicant remained in prison for almost two years in the case, and despite being released on bail, he could not move freely or travel abroad for almost five years. He added that the applicant is now both the information minister as well as the transport minister, so he needs to travel abroad frequently to attend meetings regarding Karachi’s transport issues.

He also said the applicant had been allowed one-off permissions to travel abroad on numerous occasions, and every time he returned to the country within the stipulated time.

NAB’s special prosecutor and the deputy attorney general said the matter was for the court to decide because it had been the court’s decision to put Memon’s name on the ECL at the time of granting him bail, and it had not been requested by NAB or the federal government.

After hearing the arguments of the counsel, an SHC division bench headed by Justice Mohammad Karim Khan Agha said Article 15 of the constitution guarantees the right of freedom of movement, which cannot be denied to a citizen indefinitely.

The court said the applicant’s unrestricted freedom of movement has already been held in abeyance for more than five years, while the applicant has not caused a delay in his trial. The bench said the applicant has been granted one-off permissions to travel abroad on several occasions, and he has always returned in time and shown the lack of intention to abscond.

The court said the applicant is also the transport minister, and it may require him to travel abroad on short notice with matters of the city’s public transport system, which is woefully lacking.

The bench said that a report was also called from the accountability court, where the applicant was being tried, and it revealed that the trial was nowhere near reaching its conclusion, so the SHC granted the review application and directed the interior ministry to remove Memon’s name from the ECL.

The high court, however, made it clear that a counsel of the applicant will have to represent him on every date of hearing to ensure that no delay is caused in the trial of the applicant when he is unavailable before the court.

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