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ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly Thursday passed “The National Accountability (Second Amendment) Bill, 2022” with some amendments aimed at stopping the misuse of the law for political engineering and victimization of opponents.

Minister for Law and Justice Azam Nazeer Tarar tabled, the “National Accountability (Second Amendment), Bill 2022” in the House for passage. The House passed the bill with some amendments.

While highlighting salient features of the bill, the minister said that the NAB law was used for suppressing the voice of opponent politicians.

He said, “All the amendments ordered by superior judiciary from time to time had been accommodated in the new bill.” He said after passage of the bill, the NAB must complete inquiries within a period of six months.

He said that the PTI government had extended the tenure of incumbent NAB chairman by promulgating an ordinance. He said that that various honest civil servants were put behind bars sans having any cogent evidence.

Bureaucracy for disbanding NAB

According to the bill, there are some important points: NAB deputy chairman to become acting chairman following top official’s retirement. Process to appoint new chairman to begin two months prior to incumbent’s retirement and completed in 40 days. Federal and provincial tax matters removed from NAB’s purview. Regulatory bodies’ decisions removed from NAB’s purview.

Judges to be appointed in accountability courts for a three-year period; cases to be decided within a year.NAB bound to ensure availability of evidence prior to arrest. Up to five-year imprisonment for filing false reference.

According to the bill, the NAB deputy chairman would become the acting chairman following the top official’s retirement. If the deputy chairman is not available, any senior official would become the NAB’s acting chairman.

In addition, the incumbent chairman cannot be re-appointed.

The process to appoint a new chairman would begin two months prior to the retirement of the incumbent chairman and would be completed in 40 days.

According to the bill, if the prime minister and leader of the opposition are unable to agree on an appointee, the matter would be referred to the parliamentary committee. The parliamentary committee would then finalise the name for a new chairman within 30 days.

The bill also limits the accountability watchdog’s powers, removing federal and provincial tax matters from its domain as well as financial irregularities in any development project. In addition, the NAB would not be able to take action on any regulatory body’s decisions.

The Bill further described that judges would be appointed in accountability courts for a three-year period and the relevant high court’s chief justice should be consulted for their removal. The courts would have to decide cases within a year.

According to bill, the NAB would have to begin an investigation on a complaint within six months and present an arrested person before an accountability court within 24 hours. The anti-graft watchdog would have to ensure the availability of evidence prior to the arrest.

The period of remand would also be reduced from 90 days to 14 days. If convicted, a person would be able to file an appeal till 30 days instead of 10 days previously.

The bill also seeks to stop NAB officials from issuing statements before a reference has been filed, the punishment for violating which would be one-year imprisonment and a fine of Rs100,000. The punishment for filing a false reference would be up to five-year imprisonment.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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