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ISLAMABAD: The Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Accountability, Irfan Qadir, said on Thursday that issues pertaining to superior court judges could be referred to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) if they have “criminal overtones” or an “element of corruption”.

Speaking at a presser, he said that the National Accountability Ordinance has the jurisdiction and the top anti-graft body can be asked to probe into matters pertaining to superior court judges.

“There is no sacred cow for this law. There is only one category i.e. our superior court judges, for whom confusion was created with regard to laws,” he added.

He continued that “it was said that their matters were to be referred to Supreme Judicial Council (SJC)”, and added: “Today I want to clarify that, yes, judges’ matters do go to the SJC, but where there are elements of corruption that attract criminality — that require criminal proceedings — it is there that they can be tried under this accountability law.”

Qadir said that in the past several years, even as prime ministers were disqualified and their governments were lost, “our Supreme Court ordered that their cases should be referred to NAB, who should investigate them and file references against the prime ministers”.

He maintained that “superior court judges’ matters will definitely be referred to the SJC, and if there are criminal overtones and an element of corruption, NAB has jurisdiction and they can look into it”.

About the purported audio leaks involving a sitting Supreme Court judge, he said that it seems that the judicial system was being “manipulated by certain people on the outside” and that “there were indications of an element of corruption”.

Considering these matters, he added, the government exercised extreme caution to form the commission comprising fellow judges to investigate the matter.

“This was a fair opportunity provided to the judges to prove their innocence. If the commission’s report had come out favourable, the matter would not have been referred to SJC or the anti-corruption institutions,” he added.

He regretted that the apex court itself issued a stay on this order.

He stated that the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Act, 2023, empowered the SC and protected the chief judge from allegations but instead, the courts formed a bench against the act and stopped it from being instated.

“The government and the parliamentarians tried their best to protect the apex courts from the allegations against the chief,” he stated.

“No one has the fundamental right where they can stop law-making before it is implemented,” Qadir added while referring to the apex court’s stay orders against the act.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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