In a 2-1 verdict, a three-member bench of the Supreme Court on Friday approved Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan’s petition challenging amendments made to accountability laws by the previous Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM)-led government.
Headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial, the bench comprised Justices Mansoor Ali Shah and Ijazul Ahsan and issued its verdict after more than 50 hearings. In the final hearing, on Sept. 5, the bench had reserved its judgment, with the CJP saying a “short and sweet verdict” would be announced before his retirement—Sept. 16 (Saturday).
The majority verdict—declaring a majority of amendments void—has been backed by the CJP and Justice Ahsan, while Justice Shah has penned a dissenting note. It has restored all graft cases against public office holders that were closed down following the amendments and directed courts to revisit them within 7 days. It has further ordered the restoring of and fixing before accountability courts all graft cases valued up to Rs. 500 million against various political leaders and public office holders that were dismissed.
The court also declared null and void verdicts issued by accountability courts in light of the amendments.
Among the NAB amendments reversed is the reduction of the four-year term of the NAB chairman and the bureau’s prosecutor general to three years. The amendments had also placed all regulatory bodies functioning in the country out of NAB’s domain, which no longer applies. Similarly, a three-year term had been set for judges of accountability courts and courts were bound to decide cases within one year. Another amendment had allowed the accused to reclaim the amount of plea bargain deposited after being acquitted.
In his petition, the PTI chief had argued that the amendments should be struck down because they were unconstitutional. He had specifically referred to amendments to sections 2, 4, 5, 6, 14, 15, 21, 23, 25 and 26 of the NAB law as against the Constitution. He had further pled that amendments in the NAB law were contrary to fundamental rights enshrined in Articles 9, 14, 19, 24, 25 of the Constitution.
The apex court had taken the matter up for hearing on July 15, 2022.