SC directs AGP to submit reply over NAO’s plea bargain, voluntary return provision

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ISLAMABAD, Oct 11 (APP):The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed the Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) to submit reply over National Accountability Ordinance’s (NAO) plea bargain and voluntary return provision in two weeks.
A three-member special bench of the apex court headed by Justice Gulzar Ahmad heard the suo moto notice case.
During the course of proceedings, Justice Azmat Saeed remarked that at one side National Accountability Bureau (NAB) says a case concerning Rs 75 million is a minor one
while on the other side a person convicted in Rs one million case is imprisoned.
Justice Gulzar Ahmed remarked that the issue relates to NAO’s section 25 and asked the Attorney General (AG)
Ashtar Ausaf the difference between a plea bargain and voluntary return.
According to section 25 of NAO, the NAB chairman, with the approval of any accountability court, can order the release of an accused found guilty of corruption after he/she enters into a plea bargain or an agreement by returning the misappropriated money to the Bureau.
Justice Azmat Saeed remarked that the outcomes of the plea bargain and voluntary return were different. He observed that voluntary return of money is actually a confession of the crime; however, the accountability laws relating to it change its nature from being a crime to
a case of good intentions.
He remarked that when an inquiry begins, NAB chairman writes to the accused, asking him to return the money and the accused is offered a scheme which allows him to continue earning illegally and keep returning the money earned to NAB. The chairman NAB has been given limitless powers when it comes to a plea bargain, he added.
Justice Azmat Saeed asked is there anyone who can defend this law? “We cannot keep our eyes closed in this situation,” he added.
He remarked that an accused of Rs 5million worth corruption is freed after giving Rs15,000 to NAB.
The court was informed that the federation does not support the plea bargain and the bill to change it is pending in the Senate.
The court asked the attorney general to submit a written reply.
The Attorney General said that he will inform the court regarding legislation on the issue in his written statement.
The court also issued notices to advocate general Islamabad and the provincial governments and adjourned hearing of the case till November 9.