Amendments to NAB Act must be sent back to parliament, notes CJP Bandial

Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial – Supreme Court of Pakistan website

ISLAMABAD: Recent amendments to the National Accountability Ordinance (NAB) will be sent back to parliament as the court cannot take away the powers of the legislature, Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial remarked during the hearing. a petition filed by the PTI.

“In my view, this matter will be referred to Parliament. There is no substitute in Parliament […] and we cannot take away his powers,” the CJP said while hearing a plea from the PTI challenging the changes to the NAB Act.

A three-member bench of the Supreme Court – including CJP Bandial, Justice Mansoor Ali Shah and Justice Ijazul Ahsan – heard the motion filed by PTI President Imran Khan.

PTI President Imran Khan had filed a petition in the Supreme Court under Article 184(3) of the Constitution, alleging that the bill had “virtually eliminated[d] any white collar crime committed by a public office holder”.

The Joint Session of Parliament last month passed the National Accountability (Amendment) Bill 2022, which curtailed the authority of the anti-corruption watchdog and reduced days of remand, among other amendments.

However, the PTI, whose lawmakers had resigned en masse from the National Assembly, was not present to oppose the changes and later opted to challenge the amendments in the highest court.

The SC, after hearing arguments from PTI lawyer Khawaja Harris and former Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, adjourned the hearing until July 29 (Friday) 11 a.m., while also addressing notice to the NAB, the federal government and the Attorney General to present their side of the story at the next hearing.

At the start of today’s hearing, CJP Bandial asked if Justice Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar’s assertion – that all changes to the NAB Act have a supporting reference to SC orders – was true.

In response, PTI attorney Harris said, “I don’t think that’s the case. The amendments go against the orders of the Supreme Court, but they do not comply with them. »

Justice Ahsan noted that several changes had been “rushed” through. Judge Shah asked: “Isn’t it the job of legislators to make law and the courts have repeatedly asked them to write NAB laws?”

In response, Harris said, “Through this NAB law, fundamental rights are being violated.”

Following Harris’ arguments, Judge Shah asked whether parliamentarians should not be allowed to use their powers to legislate.

To this, Harris requested that if Parliament decided there should be no punishment for murder, then they would be permitted to do so.

Justice Shan replied that if Parliament abolishes the death penalty as a punishment for murder, then what can the court do about it.

“The death sentence is a separate matter. Where corruption and the public purse are involved, then the question of fundamental rights becomes involved.

The CJP then asked the PTI representatives that all these issues could have been raised in Parliament and then why did the party not hold a debate there.

‘Why didn’t you represent 40% of the people in Parliament?’

“Do you know whether all these issues were discussed in parliament or not? asked the CJP as PTI leader Qureshi approached the podium.

The CJP told Qureshi that when the NAB amendments were passed, there was no one in parliament to oppose them.

“When sensitive issues are discussed, all legislators must be present in the house, where have you been?” asked the CJP.

Qureshi said he understood the court’s role.

“Answer our questions; because of such cases, ordinary man’s cases are stopped,” CJP told Qureshi.

Judge Ahsan asked, “Why didn’t you represent 40% of the population in parliament?

“The trust that the people had placed in you as a member of the assembly is not fulfilled,” Judge Shah remarked.

At this, the head of the PTI, Qureshi, informed the court that the NAB amendments had been discussed by the parliamentary committee for several hours.

“You are probably talking about the committee meeting that was held before the motion of no confidence,” Judge Hassan said.

Meanwhile, Judge Mansoor asked: ‘Why did you leave the assembly when you were aware of the importance of the NAB amendments?’

Qureshi argued that the Treasury benches crushed the majority NAB amendments.

CJP Bandial noted that the issue of NAB amendments must come back to the legislature as the court cannot use the powers of parliament.

“How can the court issue a stay order against the law passed by Parliament? asked the CJP.

Referring to the points raised in the courtroom, the Supreme Court asked why were these points not discussed in Parliament?

The court needs further assistance from Qureshi on these points, the highest court said.

Judge Mansoor asked whether the petitioner deserved the right to file a claim against the NAB amendments when he was out of session.

Sometimes you have to compromise on personal priorities for the benefit of the country and the public interest, CJP Bandial remarked and asked if the PTI had devised a plan to get the country out of difficult times.

To this, Judge Mansoor said that the assembly was the relevant forum and by skipping the assembly and moving the court, “how did you become the relevant party?”

Responding to the question, Qureshi said the PML-N had the majority in the assembly, adding that the bill would have been destroyed even if they had opposed it.

The CJP said: “A proposal is hidden in our questions. Deliberate on it for the good of the people.

The government has signed a staff-level agreement with the IMF, but it is not publicly accepted, CJP Bandial said, adding that the value of the rupee is falling day by day.

To this, Harris argued that it was the right of the people that their representatives not abuse their powers.

Abuse of power is a crime, but it has been made impossible to prove it, the lawyer added. He argued that the responsible courts could no longer accept information from abroad as evidence.

Justice Ahsan said even money laundering is no longer a crime, adding that it will be a crime if someone accumulates assets through the money.

Continuing his arguments, the lawyer said that all cases of fake accounts will be abolished due to the new amendments to the NAB laws.

In the meantime, the court has requested answers from the federal government and the NAB in this regard.