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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) removed the Registrar Office’s objections on the petition of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf(PTI) Chairman Imran Khan against the amendments in the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO), 1999.

Justice Ijazul Ahsan, on Wednesday, heard Khan’s appeal against the Registrar Office’s objection in the chamber.

Advocate Khawaja Asif, on behalf of the PTI chief, appeared before Justice Ijaz, who after hearing him overruled the objections, and directed the office to number the petition and fix it in the open court.

Earlier, the apex court’s Registrar Office had raised five objections against the PTI’s petition and stated that the petitioner had not highlighted what matters of public importance were involved in the enforcement of fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution so as to directly invoke the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court under Article 184(3).

“The ingredients for involving extraordinary jurisdiction of this court under Article 184(3) of the Constitution have not been satisfied,” a statement issued by the office read.

The PTI chief, on June 25, had filed the petition under Article 184(3) of the Constitution through Khawaja Haris challenging the amendments brought in the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999 through National Accountability (Amendment) Act (XI of) 2022, and cited the federation and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) as respondents.

The petition stated; “By virtue of the impugned amendments, not only all the cases of the category mentioned in Section 4(2)(b) of the NAO, 1999, pending trial against, inter alia the Ministers, Chief Ministers, Prime Ministers, and a President stand virtually terminated.

Even those Ministers, Chief Ministers or Prime Ministers, as much as all other holders of public office, and Prime Ministers who may already stand convicted prior to the promulgation of the impugned amendments, have also been provided an opportunity to have their respective convictions undone by taking advantage of the amendments made effective retrospectively, i.e. from the date of commencement of the NAO, 1999, and that too without any clause saving past and closed transactions.”

It further said; “By restricting prosecution qua decisions taken by the Prime Ministers, Ministers, Cabinet Members, Members and officials of Committees, and Sub-Committees, CCI, NEC, ECNEC, CDWP, PDWP, the State Bank of Pakistan, and “such other bodies”, the impugned amendment is not only unreasonable, but it also defeats the very purpose for which it is represented to have been enacted.”

The blanket immunity from prosecution given to officials of all regulatory bodies, such as NEPRA, SECP, the Competition Commission of Pakistan, the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority, regarding all matters decided by them, is also unreasonable, unconstitutional and against the very concept of accountability.

The re-definition of the word “Benamidar” has been introduced in clause (e) of Section 5 of NAO, 1999, so as to pave the way for providing benefit of acquittal to all those accused who are facing trial, or have faced trial, for offences involving allegations of holding benami assets beyond their known sources of income, notwithstanding that these accused were/are not in a position to “reasonably account for” the sources from which these assets were purchased, nor prove “payment of full and lawful consideration” thereof.

It said placing onus upon the Prosecution (NAB) to prove that the assets owned and/or possessed by holders of public office as being obtained by corruption and corrupt practices, is manifestly aimed at and will result in acquittal or discharge of all those holders of public office who are presently facing trial for offences under Section 9(a)(v) of NAO, 1999, and even of those holders of public office whose cases are pending in appeal, or already stand decided.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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