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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court said Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan should have raised the objections against the amendments in the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO), 1999 in the parliament instead of filing a petition in the court.

A three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah on Wednesday heard the constitutional petition of the PTI chief against the amendments in the NAO 1999.

Justice Mansoor, responding to Khawaja Haris’s argument that after the amendments the amount paid by a convicted in voluntary returns or plea bargain would have to be returned, said the petitioner (ex-PM) could have raised these objections in parliament instead of approaching the Court, adding, he was given a sacred trust by the voters of his constituency.

However, he (IK) walked out of the parliament and breached their trust, and now he has filed the petition before the apex court, raising objections on the amendments in the NAO.

Justice Ijaz said this Court (SC) found that the parliamentary sovereignty was not unbridled; rather it has certain overarching restrictions subject to the constitution. Accountability is not only confined to this world but also to the world to come.

The judge noted that the amendments are regressive in nature as efforts have been made since 1947 to curb the menace of corruption. Instead of improving the law, loopholes have been created and certain standards affected.

Earlier, Haris argued that before the National Accountability Ordinance, there were laws to prevent corruption, adding in 1997 Nawaz Sharif’s government had promulgated Ehtesab Act. He contended that the recent amendments made have nullified the accountability process of the public office holders.

Justice Mansoor questioned if the NAB law is repealed then what would be his stance. Haris replied then he would be attacking the repealed law and praying for its restoration. They (the government) have betrayed the trust by not making the public office holders accountable. He then asked the counsel to cite any judgment from our own jurisprudence where the law repealed was brought to the Court and it was restored.

Justice Bandial said there is a legal norm, but there is also a legal grundnorm, adding the Prevention of Corruption Act has been there since 1947. “We would be satisfied if the minimum criterion against corruption is not breached,” he added. He then referred to Surah Yusuf, saying Hazrat Yusuf was given control of the storeroom in Egypt because of his honesty.

He said it would apply to the pending cases and also in the cases of past and closed transactions, adding so far, the cases of past and closed transactions were reopened through the judgments or by the courts. He said the return of the money, which runs into billions, will be a violation of the fundamental rights of the citizens.

Justice Mansoor questioned how the fundamental rights of the citizens will be affected if the money returned from the public exchequer was of the accused which he paid in voluntary return or plea bargain to the NAB under duress.

Justice Ijaz Ahsan said if the conviction of a person on the basis of ill-gotten money, obtained in the form of kickbacks and corruption, is reversed due to the amendments then why this money be returned to the person, who was given the benefit of the amendments. He added that the money the convicted person earned through kickback and other unlawful means was public money.

The chief justice asked the counsel you mean that they (the PML-N and the PPP) are reversing the clock and some unusual things are happening in anticipation of some consequences. The case was adjourned until today (Thursday).

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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