The federal government on Tuesday filed an intra-court appeal (ICA) against the Supreme Court’s majority judgement declaring amendments to the National Accountability Ordinance illegal.
Last month, just ahead of the retirement of former chief justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial, a two-to-one majority judgment nullified the amendments to the anti-graft law and ruled the reopening of corruption references against all public representatives who had benefited from the new law. The judgement has seen dozens of cases reopened, and was hailed by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), which had filed a petition against the amendments.
Moved by senior counsel Makhdoom Ali Khan, the ICA petition has sought 15 days to file additional documents, and has made PTI Chairman Imran Khan a respondent. It has pleaded that the majority decision was against the facts of the case and contrary to law. It has argued that the PTI chairman was provided opportunities to make verbal submissions during 27 hearings, and was also allowed to make submissions in rebuttal. By contrast, it states, the federation was restricted only to answering queries from the bench.
Continuing in the same vein, the petition states the respondent was granted three months to file his written submissions, while a similar request by the federation for the grant of the same time or at least three weeks was not entertained. It said the written submissions were thusly prepared in haste, even as the government’s request for a postponement of the case or constitution of a full court bench remained undecided.
Due to these factors, states the ICA, the majority judgement is contrary to the principles of natural justice and due process of law and against the dicta law laid down by a SC larger bench in 1990.
Referring to the amendment NAB law, the petition states it acquitted no one, adding all references withdrawn from NAB were transferred to other fora. By contrast, it notes, several acquittals were ordered pursuant to the amendment ordinances promulgated during the PTI government. Similarly, it notes, none of the accused whose references were returned or transferred to other form were parties to the case and their cases were not before the top court.
The petition asserts that the entire premise of the majority judgement is flawed, as it appears to assume cases transferred to other departments would not proceed in the same manner as NAB cases. Noting the judgment states that cases transferred from NAB or accountability courts could only be tried under the Prevention Corruption Act, 1947 and Pakistan Penal Code, 1860, and this did not apply to elected public office holders, it stressed this was incorrect.
If any elected public office holder is accused of a financial crime, he could be tried under fiscal statutes, like the Income Tax Ordinance, 2001, reads the petition, adding similarly any person accused of money laundering could be prosecuted under the Money Laundering Act, 2010.