ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, on Friday, noted that the evidence obtained under mutual legal assistance (MLA) had been abolished in the amendments.
At the outset, the CJP interrupting Khawaja Haris, who represented Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan, noted that amendments had abolished the status of evidence obtained under MLA, potentially making the process costlier for the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
He said evidence obtained from abroad was now inadmissible under the law, which raised concerns who would benefit from these changes.
The chief justice said; “Now the NAB will have to take services there itself, which will be expensive,” adding it was said yesterday that apart from MLA, there have been reports of properties from abroad, but those are not acceptable under law.
The CJP said the records obtained by the Federal Bureau of Revenue (FBR) from abroad were not admissible evidence in the court.
Earlier, Haris said that evidence is taken from foreign countries through MLA through the Foreign Office. The chief justice questioned what is the scope of legal assistance from abroad in the law of Pakistan? Haris replied that legal assistance received from abroad was not given much importance.
A three-judge bench, headed by CJP Umar Ata Bandial, and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, heard former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s petition against the amendments in the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO), 1999.
During the hearing, the NAB submitted a report regarding transferring of the cases. According to that, this year a total of 22 cases were returned from the accountability courts, while 25 cases were transferred to other forums in the light of the amendments.
The report said that 12 references were transferred from the NAB courts till August 30 this year. It also said that former president Asif Zardari and former Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi are among the beneficiaries of the amendments.
The NAB cases of Omni Group head Khawaja Anwar Majeed, Khursheed Anwar Jamali, and Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA) ex-DG Manzoor Qadir Kaka were also transferred. The case of Hussain Lawai, the main suspect in the fake accounts case, was also left out of the scope of the NAB.
The Park Lane reference against Asif Zardari was returned by the accountability court after amendments, while the NAB case against Abdul Ghani Majeed of the Omni Group was also returned by the accountability court.
During the proceeding, Haris contended that the fundamental rights of people are affected by the obstruction in the accountability process of public office holders in the NAB cases.
Justice Mansoor observed that it seemed as if attempts were being made to find flaws in the amendments made to the NAO, 1999.
He said the NAB amendments were not a matter of violation of fundamental human rights. He said: “If we accept for a minute that the members of parliament made amendments to benefit themselves, should we declare the NAB amendments null and void? On what grounds should we do that?”
Haris responded that the court could declare the NAB amendments void under Article 9.
Justice Mansoor told him, let the judiciary and parliament function in their domain; otherwise, the democratic system will not work. He observed that it seemed that attempts were being made to find flaws in the NAB amendments, but nothing could be found, so far.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2023