ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial has observed that in the garb of amendments to the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO), 1999 many people were exonerated.

A three-judge bench, headed by the chief justice, and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, on Thursday, heard former prime minister Imran Khan’s petition against the amendments to the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO), 1999.

The chief justice said in the National Accountability (Amendment) Act, 2022, there was no mention of the transfer of those cases, who could not be tried by the Accountability Courts, to other forums.

Justice Mansoor said it is not like that the persons whose cases are transferred from the Accountability Court will go scot-free. He said there are a number of other laws and forums where they will be tried.

Khawaja Haris, who appeared on behalf of the petitioner, contended that the principle of retrospectivity is included in the NAB law through amendments to benefit some people. He said the NAB had spent Rs18 billion to probe the cases, but due to amendments many people in the previous government were given a clean chit, adding it is the loss of public money.

Makhdoom Ali Khan, representing the Federation, contended if the Court is looking at the corruption then it should also see this aspect that the corruption in the country is due to the undocumented economy. He said the sum total of credit entries of bank account shall not be treated as an asset. Bank balance of an account on the date of initiation of inquiry may be treated as a movable asset.

The chief justice noticed that the explanation in Section 9 applies to the business accounts. He questioned what about the private accounts. He then inquired, what about if someone buys foreign currency and transfer it outside the country. The CJP remarked then first the prosecution has to trace the route. He questioned what about the assets in Dubai.

Makhdoom responded that after the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) the source could be traced even in Dubai and Switzerland authorities helped in corruption case, and taking money illegally in their countries.

The chief justice said now the offence has been confined to obtain benefit by misusing authority. He, however, appreciated the exclusion of the decision makers (civil servants) from the harassment by the NAB. Makhdoom said the Supreme Court itself held in a judgment that the decision makers need to be protected from the perils of harassment. The case was adjourned until Friday (Sept 1).

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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