Why armed forces were kept out of NAB law, asks SC

Justice Mansoor Ali Shah asks why Imran Khan didn’t object to exclusion of military from bureau’s jurisdiction

Picture source - supremecourt.gov.pk

Supreme Court judge Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah on Monday wondered why former prime minister Imran Khan, while challenging amendments to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) law, didn’t object to exclusion of armed forces from NAB jurisdiction as they held the ‘biggest businesses’ in the country.

“You could have said that NAB law is discriminatory in nature,” he remarked as a three-judge bench of the apex court led by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Justice Umar Ata Bandial resumed the hearing into a case against recent amendments to National Accountability Ordinance (NAO).

The counsel for former premier, Khawaja Haris, said that army officers associated with any business entity were not exempted from NAB jurisdiction.

Justice Shah also questioned why the NAB law did not apply to judges. Raising questions on the maintainability of the petition, he again asked Imran’s lawyer how the apex court could design the law, adding that it was parliament’s job to discuss what kind of law on accountability should be framed. “Tomorrow someone may approach the Supreme Court for holding death sentence in the offence of assets beyond [means],” he added.

Justice Shah also questioned whether accountability only meant the existence of NAB law. “An impression is being given that there would be no accountability after these amendments,” he added.

During the proceedings, Justice Ijaz asked whether anyone was left who had not been exempted from the NAB law. Even the chairman and vice chairman of a tehsil council were exempted after the NAB amendments. He also noted that the offence of misuse of authority was only mentioned in NAB law.

Khawaja Haris responded by saying that offences related to misuse of authority and assets beyond means could not be tried after these amendments. He said that under the new law, the NAB should first establish that the accused person in exercise of misuse of authority got financial gains.

Justice Shah observed that no decision could be stated as wrong until any financial benefit from it was proved. Apparently the government officers and public office-holders had been given the freedom to make decisions through the NAB amendments, he added.

The PTI lawyer said that more than Rs8 billion was recovered from such decision makers in the past. He supported the NAB law amendments to limit the duration of remand as well as including the bail provision to the accused in the law.

However, Justice Shah asked whether the recovery was made from public office-holders.  Khawaja Haris responded that the recovery was made from those who were minting money for the public office-holders. Justice Mansoor said every government decision benefitted some section or the other. The hearing of the case was adjourned till Monday.

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