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Thursday, June 13, 2024  
06 Dhul-Hijjah 1445  

SC allows PTI chief to appear in NAB tweaks case via video link

Directs Centre, Punjab to make arrangement to ensure Khan hears, addresses the court through video link
A five-member Supreme Court bench hears case related to NAB amendments on May 14, 2024. Screengrab via YouTube/Supreme Court of Pakistan Proceedings
A five-member Supreme Court bench hears case related to NAB amendments on May 14, 2024. Screengrab via YouTube/Supreme Court of Pakistan Proceedings

A five-member Supreme Court bench allowed incarcerated former prime minister Imran Khan to appear in the case related to the amendments made to the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999 (NAO) – the law that governs the country’s top graft buster, the National Accountability Bureau.

“In our order, we had permitted him [Imran Ahmed Khan Niazi] to be represented through the counsel but he has stated that he wants to personally argue the matter,” presiding judge Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa said while dicating the order.

The apex court directed the federal government and the Government of Punjab to make arrangements to ensure that the respondent can hear and address the court through the video link.

This came when a five-member SC bench comprising Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa, Justice Aminuddin Khan, Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail, Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Azhar Hasan Rizvi took up the government’s pleas against the NAB amendments.

The federal government in its appeal had requested the apex court to set aside the September 15 majority judgement that had declared amendments to the NAO illegal.

On September 15, 2023, the top court by a majority of two-to-one had ruled that the public representatives who benefited from the amendments made by the Pakistan Democratic Movement government in the NAO would have to face corruption references again.

Through the intra-court appeals, the federal government had argued that the PTI founder, who had challenged the amendments, was given opportunities during the hearing not only to make verbal submissions for 27 hearings but also to make submissions in rebuttal, wher­eas the federation was restricted only to answering queries from the bench.

According to the order, the national graft-buster was supporting the appeals

“To ensure proper hearing and as respondent number 1 [Imran Khan] wants to address in person, we think it is appropriate to issue notice to learned senior counsel Khawaja Haris Ahmed, who had assisted this court in the same matter in the earlier round of litigation to represent the respondent number one,” it said.

The apex court clarified that it does not mean that the PTI founder would not be able to address the court. It added that the court would pass an order if the senior counsel would attend the hearing only upon payment of the fee.

The SC ordered that the copy of the order be sent to Khawaja Haris and Khan and adjourned the hearing till Thursday.

“In the constitution scheme, it is for the parliament to legislate and the courts make every effort to uphold such legislations unless it can be pointed out that same are unconstitutional and if there are two views possible the one in favour of upholding the legislation is to be preferred. The amendments had sort to reduce the rigors of the prevailing NAB ordinance and as such a amending laws which sort to reduce the same could not be construed to be violation of fundamental rights under Article 184 (3) of the Constitution

The matter of retrospective relief was not attended to in terms of the Constitution since the Constitution under Article 12 prohibits retrospective punishment but does not prohibit or restrict retrospective relief or benefit.“

Hearing

At the outset of the hearing, lawyer Makhdoom Ali Khan appeared before the bench. The CJP inquired whether the attorney general for Pakistan had arrived.

The NAB prosecutor general appeared in court. The NAB lawyer stated that he would accept the evidence presented by the federal government in the case.

CJP Isa asked about the lawyer representing the first party, to which, the the counsel for the government, Makhdoom Ali Khan, stated that Khawaja Haris was the lawyer for the central appeal.

CJP Isa said that if the PTI founder wished to appear themselves, the court had directed them to take appropriate steps.

Justice Athar Minallah stated that the court had also issued orders in this regard, saying that it would not stop anyone from coming to the court. It is said about NAB that it was involved in “political engineering,” he said and added that if Khan wanted to appear in the court via video link, then they should take appropriate steps.

Five-minute break

CJP Isa stated that the case was a matter of law and not an individual’s personal matter as the bench took a five-minute break for consultation on the matter.

When the hearing resumed, the CJP stated that if the first party wanted to present its statement then steps should be taken for that. They do not want to prolong the case, he said.

The SC directed the jail authorities to make arrangements for a video link.

Khan allowed to appear in court via video link

The SC has granted permission to former prime minister Khan to appear from jail via video link in the NAB amendments case.

CJP Isa remarked that if the PTI founder wanted to present evidence, he could do so through a video link. He wondered when the video link would be arranged and added that it was a “strange situation” where the party that filed the application was now the respondent, but they were not represented here.

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