ISLAMABAD: In a 2-1 verdict, the Supreme Court (SC) on Friday ordered to restore the corruption cases against public office holders that were withdrawn after amendments were made to the country’s accountability laws.
The reserved verdict was announced by a three-member bench comprising Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah on PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s 2022 petition challenging amendments made to the accountability laws.
CJP Bandial and Justice Ahsan declared Imran’s plea to be maintainable while Justice Shah disagreed with the majority verdict, according to which not just the corruption cases but also the inquiries and investigations were directed to be restored.
The court also declared some amendments to the accountability laws to be contrary to the Constitution and struck them down.
These included one which limited the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) jurisdiction to cases involving over Rs500 million and one which allowed the accused to claim the amount of plea bargain deposited after being acquitted.
The court directed that the cases that were withdrawn after NAB’s jurisdiction was limited to investigating cases below Rs500m be fixed for hearing in accountability courts.
The court also declared null and void the verdicts issued by the accountability courts in light of the amendments made to the laws.
It directed that the cases withdrawn as a result of the amendments be fixed for hearing in accountability courts within a week. The court further directed the NAB to send the records to the relevant courts within seven days.
In June 2022, the PTI chief had moved the apex court against amendments made to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) ordinance under the National Accountability (Second Amendment) Act 2022.
The amendments made several changes to the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) 1999, including reducing the term of the NAB chairman and prosecutor general to three years, limiting NAB’s jurisdiction to cases involving over Rs500 million, and transferring all pending inquiries, investigations, and trials to the relevant authorities.
In his petition, the PTI chief had claimed that the amendments to the NAB law had been made to benefit influential accused persons and legitimise corruption.
In recent hearings, Justice Shah had repeatedly urged for a full court to hear the case, citing the frozen Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) law.
However, CJP Bandial had opposed it, noting that his retirement was near and the matter had already been pending before the court for a considerable time — since at least July 19, 2022.
The SC had reserved its verdict in the case on September 5, after 53 hearings, with the members of the three-judge bench debating the power of parliament to enact legislation with retrospective effect. Making a reference to the judgement, the bench had said something “short and sweet” would be released soon.
Speaking to the media outside the SC after the verdict was announced, PTI lawyer Shoaib Shaheen said that the first order of business of the previous Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) government was to introduce amendments to the NAB laws.
He said that the amendments had been declared to be a violation of Articles 9 (security of person), 14 (inviolability of dignity of man, etc) and 89 (power of president to promulgate ordinances) of the Constitution.
He further said that cases that were below Rs500m had been restored after today’s verdict. He further said that the previous government had introduced several changes in order to benefit itself.