LAHORE: An accountability court on Monday acquitted Jang group editor-in-chief Mir Shakilur Rehman and two former officials of the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) in a reference of 34-year-old illegal property transaction matter.
Other two accused are former director general of LDA Humayon Faiz Rasool and its former director of land development department Mian Bashir Ahmad.
Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has already been declared proclaimed offender in the case for his constant non-appearance before the court.
The court, therefore, consigned the case file to the record with a direction to put up as and when Sharif is arrested and sent up for trial.
Allowing the acquittal application of Mir Shakil under section 265-k of Cr.P.C, the judge Asad Ali ruled that there is no supportive material with the prosecution to prove involvement of Mir Shakil and his co-accused persons and there is no probability of their being convicted.
Although, the other two accused persons Humayon Faiz Rasool and Mian Bashir Ahmad did not file the acquittal applications, the judge, however, observed that the court could exercise its powers under section 265-K Cr.P.C on its own at any stage of the case.
The court observed that the prosecution’s case lies on presumption and assumption and no evidence is available on record to establish the element of criminal intent on the part of former officials of the LDA. The prosecution has failed to prove that the accused LDA officials had misused their authority and caused a loss to national exchequer. The court observed that no loss was caused to the LDA from any act of the accused or his co-accused persons as prosecution witnesses admitted that the reserve price was paid in time.
The verdict announced by presiding judge Asad Ali said, the prosecution based its case mainly on two grounds, firstly accused Mir Shakil paid price for excess land on reserve price and not at the market price, secondly in violation of Exemption Policy, the accused has been allotted plot in composite block, including two streets.
The court held that there might be some violation of exemption policy but such violation cannot be treated as a misuse of authority.
“In order to prove criminal responsibility, prosecution is required to establish that there exists a clear cut criminal intention on the part of accused,” the verdict stated.
The court maintained that in the absence of criminal intent, mere violation of procedural rules is not sufficient to constitute an offence of corruption and corrupt practices.
The court noted that the accused got plots in 1986 and the LDA, as per a prosecution witnesses, pronounced a policy of requiring payment of excess plots at the market price in 1990. The court said the policy had no retrospective effect and was applicable for future cases.
The court observed that nothing is outstanding against accused regarding his exempted plot and the statements of the prosecution witnesses and record of the LDA also affirm that no amount is outstanding against him than after the lapse of over decades, how the LDA or any other authority could raise objection that any amount is pending due against him and that too at present market price.
“The petitioner Mir Shakilur is saddled with role of abetment in this case, when the prosecution has failed to establish main offence falling within definition of section 9 (a) (vi) NAO 1999 than how abetment of offence can be established,” the court observed adding that not even iota of evidence regarding the offence of abetment against Mir Shakil is available on record.
The NAB had arrested Mir Shakil on March 12, 2020 and he was sent to jail on judicial remand by the trial court on April 28. The Lahore High Court had denied him post arrest bail on July 8 and the Supreme Court granted him bail on Nov 9, 2020.
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) alleged that Mir Shakil illegally obtained exemption of 54 plots each measuring one-kanal in Johar Town Lahore. It said the allotment of the land had been in connivance with then Chief Minister Punjab Nawaz Sharif against the exemption policy and the laws for monetary gains. It alleged the accused caused a loss of rupees 143.53 million to national exchequer through allotment of the land in violation of exemption policy.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2022