THE Supreme Court on Friday restored corruption cases against public office holders after striking down some of the amendments made to the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) 1999 by the previous coalition government, declaring it against the rights pertaining to public interest enshrined in the Constitution. A three-member bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsen and Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah announced the verdict with a majority 2-1 in the petition filed by former Prime Minister Imran Khan challenging the impugned amendments in NAB law.
On his last working day as head of the judicial organ of the State, Justice Umar Ata Bandial delivered a highly controversial verdict with serious connotations for powers and authority of the elected parliament and relations among pillars of the State. Justice Bandia was in such a haste to decide the case before his retirement that he paid no heed to the consistent demands of the third member of the bench Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, who wanted either formation of the full court to hear the case or keep it pending till final decision of the apex court on the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Act. Vested interests might have been involved in amending the accountability law or there may have been flaws in the legislation but as pointed out by Justice Mansoor the issue pertained to powers of the parliament which cannot and should not be taken away by the judiciary as it amounts to jeopardizing the established principle of trichotomy of powers. Those who believe that the judgement was not based on merit clearly have a point as selected clauses of the amended law have been scrapped and there would be selected application of the restored clauses. Corruption is corruption but cases of only public office holders (meaning thereby politicians) would stand restored for trial by accountability courts while others including businessmen have been exempted. This amounts to making a mockery of justice and gives a clear impression of discrimination against politicians or lawmakers. It is also being pointed out by members of the legal community that the clauses which could have added to the legal woes of a particular political party have not been touched while those benefiting other politicians have been struck down. The new Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Qazi Faez Isa has already slated the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Act for hearing and its fate could also affect all cases delivered by benches that some allege were formed on a whimsical basis.