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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court said is monitoring the situation and would not let any institution transgress its mandate and ensure that people whose names are on the Exit Control List (ECL) do not leave the country without the permission of the Ministry of Interior.

A five-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi, and Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar, on Tuesday heard the suo motu regarding the apprehension of undermining the criminal justice system.

Justice Bandial said the Court was taking the lacuna in the ECL law seriously, adding each time any person whose name is on Exit List and he wishes to go abroad has to give application to the Ministry of Interior for clearing his name from the ECL. He further said there should be no change in the system.

The chief justice noted that the persons in position are the beneficiary of the amendments in the ECL Rules 2010, adding that a person in power cannot make law for his own benefit. “Should we (the SC) ignore or discard this aspect.”

Justice Bandial, without taking any name, said it is good you (the PM) got bail (in the corruption case) confirmed through a process. He said they are monitoring the development, and questioned whether the prosecutor who opposed the bail has filed the appeal?

Justice Mazahar Naqvi inquired from the DG FIA how many times bail was granted in such cases. The DG replied that the FIA prosecutor has opposed the bail, adding he did his job. Upon that Justice Mazahar remarked that “he (the prosecutor) uttered only two lines.”

The chief justice said the present time is a unique time. The majority party has left the party and the country is facing an economic crisis. “We will keep the system together to function and balance.”

“They are sitting in the truncated parliament. The law must be clear and the executive needs to exercise the power in a transparent way. We will keep an eye on agencies and the institutions remain in their limit. Don’t indulge in things where you (the government) perceived taking advantage of the system and power. We will not impose but want that the system function in a fair and transparent manner and in accordance with the law.”

At the onset of the hearing, Additional Attorney General Amir Rehman argued that according to the updated list 30 people left the country and came back. Upon that Justice Ijaz asked the AAG to read the order of the last hearing, and go step by step. Justice Ijaz said that the court order does not appear to be complied with.

Amir Rehman said that in pursuance of the 09-06-2022 order, a meeting was held at the AGP Office with the officials of the NAB, the FIA, the Ministry of Interior, and the Ministry of Law. He said that the SOPs have been devised and circulated among the stakeholders. He said that there will be another meeting of the CCEL. On a case-to-case basis, the matter of ECL would be examined.

Justice Muneeb Akhtar said the amendment passed in the Exit from Pakistan (Control) Rules, 2010 is the law. He asked where the law stands and where he government stands? “Don’t tell us that you are examining you are looking [on a] case-to-case basis. The ECL law proviso said it will be prospective, while the amendment in the law said it is retrospective. The government is on a weak wicket and is trying to gain time.

Justice Ijazul Ahsan questioned what the government is doing? He asked the AAG whether the government would reverse what had happened that the amendments on the ECL Rules would be placed again and then examine the matter on a case-to-case basis. He further asked what was the “tearing hurry” that in two days they changed the Rules.

The AAG informed that the Cabinet Committee will review the application. Upon that Justice Ijaz questioned can it be done. “You are the legislator and the judge. Its typical case of judge of its own cause.”

AGP AshtarAusaf assured the court that the matter will be reviewed not in a hurry. Deliberation took place yesterday (Monday), he said and added that the cabinet will review the entire case. All the cases will be structured and documented. The ECL each case will be looked at by the investigating agency and the trial of the case will not be hampered.

The attorney general said; “No person would leave the country without deliberation by the reporting agency and has to take permission by the Ministry of Interior.” Justice Ijaz said this will not apply to the persons, whose names were placed on the ECL by the order of the court. If someone’s name is placed on the ECL on the recommendation of the NAB, then that person will not leave the country without the permission of the NAB.

Director General FIA informed that they have digitized 42 high-profile cases and made a PDF copy. He submitted one copy to the Supreme Court.

The Court directed the AAG to place the minutes of the cabinet meeting and the decision taken on the amendment in Exit from Pakistan (Control) Rules, 2010.

The case was adjourned until June 27.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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