Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah of the Supreme Court on Wednesday said he wanted to know why PTI Chairman Imran Khan had decided to walk out of parliament instead of opposing recent changes in the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) [on the floor of the house].
“The petitioner (Imran Khan) could have raised this issue, but he walked out even though he enjoyed the trust of his constituency,” observed Justice Shah. “Now the petitioner has raised the issue before the Supreme Court rather than in parliament,” he said.
Justice Shah made the observations during the hearing of a petition filed by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chairman challenging the amendments made in the accountability law in August.
Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial headed the bench.
Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan, the third judge on the bench, said the judiciary believed that parliament’s sovereignty was not absolute. “It is subject to the Constitution.”
The fundamental thing here is that accountability is governed by basic Islamic principles,
The observations came after Khawaja Haris, Imran Khan’s counsel, compared Sections 25a and 25b of the NAO, through which retrospective ef
When the nation’s chosen representatives betray their oath, it amounts to violation of the Constitution, the counsel argued.
The CJP asked the counsel to cite examples to illustrate that the NAB law amendments had violated the basic principles and the spirit behind accountability.
Payments due through instalments after a partial deposit of 25-33 per cent of the amount agreed upon by the accused with the NAB will now stand waived, he added.
He contended that amendments in the law would benefit an accused since failure to deposit instalments of amounts agreed upon in the plea bargain would no longer invite punishment. “Instead, it would relegate the accused to the position he was in when he entered into plea bargain, either at the inquiry, investigation or trial stage.”
And in case of trial, Khawaja Haris contended, the accused would be facing a toothless law under which offences would no longer be culpable and it would be impossible to prove charges of corruption.
Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial observed that the amendments were not a relegation but complete exoneration of an accused, while Justice Ahsan described the situation as “fruit of a poisonous tree”.
Another interpretation could be that if the plea bargain becomes irrelevant to the rights of parties,
The counsel, however, argued that even then the accused would “get out of the case”.
“The accused will neither accept the plea bargain agreement nor will he pay instalments.”
The petition went on to say the amendment is “a manoeuvre by the bulk of the holders of public office to assume control over and influence the impartiality of NAB chairman.”
It named the Federation of Pakistan, through its secretary Law and Justice Division, and the NAB, through its chairman, as respondents in the case.
In May, the National Assembly had passed bills to abolish the PTI government’s election reforms giving overseas Pakistanis the right to vote through i-Voting and electronic voting machines (EVMs), as well as the NAB laws.
President Alvi refuses to sign National Accountability (Amendment) Bill
After the president’s refusal to sign the bills, the joint session of the Parliament had passed the National Accountability (Second Amendment) Bill 2021 and Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2022.
The bill has also reduced the four-year term of the NAB chairman and the bureau’s prosecutor general to three years.