ISLAMABAD, Sep 15 (NNI): The Supreme Court of Pakistan has struck down the amendments made to the National Accountability Law with a majority 2-1 verdict, restoring corruption cases against public office-holders.
The court announced the reserved verdict on a petition challenging the NAB amendments on Friday noon.
Justice Mansoor Ali Shah disagreed with the verdict.
The court judgment declared some amendments to the NAB law null and void, terming them contrary to the Constitution.
These included one which limited the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) jurisdiction to cases involving over Rs500 million and one which allowed the accused to claim the amount of plea bargain deposited after being acquitted.
The court also declared nullified the verdicts issued by the accountability courts in light of the amendments made to the laws.
The court ordered NAB to send the record to the relevant courts within seven days. The verdict declared the petition against the NAB amendments admissible.
The Supreme Court also invalidated the NAB amendment to define benami, assets in excess of income and transfer the burden of proof to the prosecution.
After the amendments to the Accountability Law, the accountability courts have returned more than 100 cases.
With the SC verdict, former president Asif Ali Zardari’s fake account cases will be transferred back to the Accountability Court and former Prime Minister Khaqan Abbasi’s LNG case may be transferred from the Special Judge Central to the Accountability Court.
The Toshakhana case of Nawaz Sharif, Asif Zardari and Yousuf Raza Gilani will be transferred back to the accountability court while the NAB reference against Murad Ali Shah will also be transferred back to the accountability court. The Kidney Hills corruption case against Salim Mandviwala and the assets beyond income reference against Ishaq Dar will be transferred back to the accountability court.
Rental power cases against former Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf will also be revived.
A corruption reference against Senator Rubina Khalid in the Lok Virsa funds will also be restored.
The accountability courts did not absolve the accused but sent their references back to the NAB, directing it to resort to the concerned forum.
A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan, Justice Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Mansoor Ali Shah announced the decision which was reserved by the court on Sept 5.
Justice Mansoor Ali Shah, however, penned a dissenting note.
Government lawyer Makhdoom Ali Khan submitted the answer to the question asked by the Chief Justice of Pakistan in the NAB amendments case on September 9. The written response consisted of five pages. The Chief Justice of Pakistan sent the question through the judicial assistant.
Justice Mansoor Ali Shah had proposed to constitute a full court in the case against NAB amendments, citing the matter of the frozen Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) law.
However, CJP Bandial had opposed it, noting that his retirement was near and the matter had already been pending before the court for a considerable time.
While reserving the verdict on the NAB amendment case on Sept 5, Chief Justice of Pakistan, Justice Umar Ata Bandial pledged “a sweet and brief ruling soon.
During the hearing, the top said: “Whether it is the use of state assets for corruption, smuggling or the illegal transfer of money — action should be taken. The lack of clarity in the law on these crimes is upsetting”.
“Making the public prosper and secure is the state’s responsibility,” he observed.
Chairman Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) filed a petition against the NAB amendments in June 2022 and the Supreme Court held 53 hearings on the petition.
The amendments made several changes to the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) 1999, including reducing the term of the NAB chairman and prosecutor general to three years, limiting NAB’s jurisdiction to cases involving over Rs500 million, and transferring all pending inquiries, investigations, and trials to the relevant authorities.
In his petition, the PTI chief had claimed that the amendments to the NAB law had been made to benefit influential accused persons and legitimise corruption.
It should be noted that today is the last day of Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial on the bench before his retirement on September 16. NNI