CJP: Holding cabinet accountable for joint actions to slow down decision making

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Arshad Sharif suo motu

Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial on Wednesday observed that holding the entire cabinet or committee responsible for jointly taken decisions would slow up the country’s decision making process, as the Supreme Court took up former prime minister Imran Khan’s petition against the recent amendments to the National Accountability Bureau ordinance.

A three-member bench, comprising the chief justice himself, Justice Mansoor Ali Shah and Justice Ijazul Ahsan, heard PTI lawyer Khwaja Haris’ arguments on Imran’s plea, which claims the new NAB laws “are a violation of fundamental rights”.

At the outset of the hearing, Imran’s lawyer pointed out that as part of NAB amendments, the decision of the federal cabinet and working development parties had been excluded from the jurisdiction of accountability watchdog. “The new laws are also a violation of the international conventions of anti-corruption.”

At this, Justice Bandial remarked that important decisions in the country are taken jointly by the federal cabinet and committees, and if all its members were to be deemed accused, “who would take the decisions then?”

“If the parliament starts doing everything, the decision-making process will slow down,” he said.

The CJP questioned the history of NAB law’s application, recalling that cases pertaining to LNG (liquified natural gas) contracts were lodged without proper examination of the facts. “Such contracts are prepared on the government level.”

The top judge said that several bureaucrats were made to serve jail time only to be later acquitted in the reference, adding that “sometimes things are not under the control of the bureaucracy”.

Talking about cases regarding assets beyond means, he said that such cases were considered a crime across the world. “We will review the NAB amendments in the context of international standards and local laws,” Justice Bandial observed.

Meanwhile, Justice Shah inquired if those who managed to come out scot-free from the NAB laws could be punished under any other law.

“There is no other law for misuse of power,” the PTI lawyer replied, adding that after the new amendments, it had become impossible to prove corruption of more than Rs500 million.

At one point during the hearing, Justice Ahsan observed that the new laws would promote systematic corruption. “The amendments have allowed the provision of financial benefits that do not fall within the category of the NAB law.”

Here, Haris said that action against public officeholders could be taken only after proving the financial benefit they had gained. “A case won’t be merited even if the officeholder’s front man and children were misusing the powers.”

Subsequently, Justice Shah asked if the amendments would have been challenged if they were passed in 1999.

“A law is only challenged when defects are revealed in its implementation,” Haris said, adding that the new NAB laws were formed to benefit “certain people”.

He alleged that the first target of the incumbent government was to close its NAB cases.

 

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