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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court said the parliamentarians should not amend the constitution for their own benefits.

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 Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan against the amendments in the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) 1999.

The chief justice said: “We are passing through not an ordinary time but an exceptional time. We should get back to the system of the constitution.” They [the PDM parliamentarians] are making amendments in the constitution, which are self-serving.”

“We are the guardian of the constitution. We want the constitution and the rule of law to prevail. It is not joyful enterprise to interfere into the business of the legislature.”

Justice Mansoor stated: “Should the changing political season outside this court do make the season change in the Court as well.” “Should it bother us.” Makhdoom Ali Khan responded that the US Supreme Court always follow the latest election results.

Justice Bandial said the erstwhile government (the PTI), which had 150 seats in the parliament did not perform its functions. Many times the PTI leaders were asked to go back to the parliament and play their role there. He said 50 percent of the parliamentarians boycotting the Parliament proceeding, and the members [left now] are making amendments for their own benefits.

Earlier, the chief justice said they are conscious that we should not enter into the political thicket, but there are fundamental rights that are involved in this proceeding. The constitution guarantees the fundamental rights and due process.

Amendments in accountability law: SC to take up plea of Imran on Tuesday

He said if the amendments are too harsh and make a mockery of democracy and deride the process of accountability then the court may interfere. Fair trial is essential to establish the truth. He said through the amendments [in the NAO] concession has been given to a few persons, and due process and fair trial which is the essential feature of the criminal justice system is being prejudiced.

Khawaja Haris said that one should be arrested if he does not join the investigation. In the criminal jurisprudence the arrest is made under the law. He further said that the NAB has started proceedings under the amended provisions. The court said the right of the accused viz-a-viz the right of the citizen at large has to be balanced; adding that even a person is acquitted of the allegations but his life becomes difficult because of the stigma he carries throughout the person’s life.

Justice Bandial observed that the legislation has gone over the board, and the court has to see whether the legislature has crossed the limit? He questioned Khawaja Haris how 90 days remand is justified; adding there has to be reasonable justification. Haris not supporting 90 days’ remand said under criminal law the remand is 14 days. The chief justice said they have to maintain the balance.

The chief justice said look at the conviction in the cases, adding that the criminal justice system will have credibility if the conviction rate is 99 per cent but it is 60 per cent in the country. Justice Mansoor said if you want an offence be criminalised what the society or the community do or where they will go. Whether it be the parliament or the people should come to the court.

Makhdoom Ali Khan, representing the federal government, said in society or country where a democratic system has not worked over a long period of time the only forum people look for the redressal of their problems is the Courts. He then cited the judgments of the Supreme Court of the United States in flag salute law and abortion. He said that the US apex court always stand with the elected government.

In 1943 the US Supreme Court invalidated a compulsory flag salute law in public schools. The decision overturned Minersville School District v Gobitis (1940) and struck down a West Virginia statute that imposed severe penalties on children and their parents if the children did not comply.

The US Supreme Court on 24 June this year overturned Roe v Wade, the court’s own landmark 1973 decision that enshrined the constitutional right to abortion for nearly 50 years. By striking down Roe, the court has put abortion rights in the hands of US state legislators.

At the outset of the hearing, advocate Khawaja Haris, appearing on behalf of PTI Chairman Imran Khan informed the bench that he could not submit a concise statement as he had contracted Covid. Upon his request, the court told him to file the statement before 1st September. The chief justice said Makhdoom Ali Khan has filed his concise statement and interesting points have been raised in it. The case was adjourned until September 1.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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