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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court observed that behind every amendment in the National Accountability Ordinance 1999 there are a number of judgments of the apex court.

A three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah on Friday heard the constitutional petition of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman, Imran Khan, against the amendments in the NAO, 1999. Additional Attorney General Amir Rehman informed the bench that the government wanted to engage a senior counsel in this case. Presently, Attorney General for Pakistan Ashtar Ausaf is in America for medical treatment.

Justice Mansoor said there are a number of judgments of the Supreme Court behind every amendment made in the NAO, 1999. He said in many judgments they have maintained that first, the prosecution would have established its case.

Advocate Khawaja Haris, representing the PTI chairman, requested that people who can benefit from the amendment should be put to notice and the transactions or transfer of properties be made subject to the final judgment of the case.

The chief justice asked him to show why there is an urgent need to put caution, adding; “We are doing this to uphold the rule of law.” He inquired who are the persons, who may be benefited from the amendments. “Tell us about the provisions (NAO amendments) that go to the core of the heart of the instant petition. We have a duty to perform under the constitution and the law. We can’t become accommodative, but have to be fair,” said the CJP.

Justice Mansoor said that a petition of similar nature is pending before the Islamabad High Court (IHC), adding why not the apex court has the wisdom of the IHC on this matter. He asked the counsel to join proceedings before the IHC and after its decision can file an appeal against it in the Supreme Court.

Haris said the issue involved is not of one province, but of the entire country. The corruption, particularly of those who hold public office affects the people all over the country. He maintained that without accountability there cannot be good governance.

The PTI counsel further argued that the fundamental rights of the people are involved. He added after the changes in the NAO no accountability of the public office holder is left. Right to life, dignity, and transparency are fundamental rights. The amendments are against the parliamentary form of government, blended with Islamic provisions. There should be accountability of the people who make the law.

Justice Mansoor asked the counsel on the basis of the salient feature you demand from the bench to strike down the law. He questioned if there is no environment or accountability law then can the court direct the parliament to make law on them. “We are not here to make law,” adding the job of the Supreme Court is to interpret law and not to fill something, which is missing in the law. “We cannot improve the law,” the judge further said.

Justice Mansoor said if the Parliament dilutes a law then the Supreme Court has no jurisdiction to ask the parliament why it has done it, adding the apex court’s jurisdiction would come when there is a violation of the fundamental rights.

Haris had requested the court to declare the amendment “null and void” under the premise that it was in “conflict” with the Constitution. “A constitutional amendment against its basic structure is not possible,” Haris argued.

Upon that Justice Mansoor stated that “the Constitution has no basic structure”, adding in India, the Court has declared that “the parliament has the authority to change the entire Constitution”. He questioned; “if the government had abolished the NAB law, what would be the basis of your request?”

Haris said; “Accountability is emphasised in both Islam and the Constitution.”

Justice Mansoor stated, “If you depend on Islam, why don’t you challenge the NAB amendments in the Shariat Court?”

The lawyer argued that the amendments affected the country and were of grave significance. Upon this, the judge said, “Your job is to tell us which amendment is against fundamental rights and the Constitution”.

The CJP further ordered the lawyer to present his “arguments in detail as to how the amendments conflict with the Constitution” and to “point out which fundamental rights of the people are being affected. Also tell us which amendments are affecting the NAB law and cases”.

The case was adjourned until 5th August.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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