ISLAMABAD, Jul 29 (APP): The Supreme Court on Friday issued notices to the government over a petition challenging the recent amendments to the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) 1999.
A three-member SC bench comprising Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ijaz Ul Ahsan and Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah heard the petition filed by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chief Imran Khan challenging the recent amendments to the NAB Ordinance.
During the course of proceedings, Additional Attorney General Aamir Rehman said he would assist the court on the matter.
The chief justice said the court would only hear the petitioner’s arguments today.
The bench asked Advocate Khawaja Haris, counsel for Imran, to highlight which NAB amendments were contrary to the Constitution and the fundamental rights of the people.
Justice Mansoor said the court could only exercise its authority over matters of parliament when they were unconstitutional.
He asked Haris to present his arguments in detail on how the amendment was contradictory to the Constitution and which fundamental rights did it violate.
The chief justice asked about the amendments that affected NAB laws and cases.
Justice Mansoor observed that a similar petition had also been filed in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) and suggested that the court should first wait for the IHC’s wisdom on the matter before issuing a verdict.
Khawaja Haris claimed that the NAB law amendments did not concern just a single court, but the entire country. Both Islam and the Constitution stressed on accountability. Independence of the judiciary and accountability of public officials were fundamental components of the Constitution, he added.
He said the public officials had exceeded the concept of accountability after the amendments.
The chief justice said further clarity was required on challenging the NAB amendments. He asked the counsel it would be better if he prepared a brief chart on his requests.
He said the counsel was referring to the Islamic provisions of the Constitution. Having a check and balance was extremely important for democracy, he added.
The CJP said corruption occurred when anyone did something illegal and benefit from it and doing so would be an abuse of power and a loss for the treasury.
He said accountability was important to run a democracy and government.
Justice Mansoor asked whether the court could restore the amended NAB law.
He asked Haris to highlight if the amendments were benefitting some specific accused people.
He asked whether the counsel wanted the court’s directive to the parliament to improve the law.
Advocate Haris replied that his client wanted the court to declare amendments conflicting with the Constitution null and void.
Justice Mansoor asked whether the lawyer’s arguments about a law being against parliamentary democracy were sufficient for it to be annulled.
He said that the Constitution did not have a basic structure and several amendments were contradictory to it.
He said the parliament had the authority to change the entire Constitution. The court had recognised the Constitution’s basic structure in the constitutional amendment case, he added.
Advocate Haris said there were several amendments that were contradictory to the Constitution and gave the example of free education. He asked whether the abolishing of death penalty by the parliament could be challenged.
Justice Mansoor asked how the courts could restore the death penalty if it was abolished by the parliament.
The counsel replied that if that happened, it would first be challenged in the Shariat Court.
Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial said the judiciary’s independence was essential to maintain balance in the society.
He observed that Article 4 of the Constitution had never been discussed in detail but it was very important. The fundamental rights could be suspended but not Article 4. The law stated that the right of individuals should be dealt with in accordance with the law, he added.
He asked if the PTI’s emphasis was on Islam then why it did not challenge the NAB amendment in the Shariat Court then.
Advocate Haris said Islamic provisions referred to in the petition were enshrined in the Constitution. There were some NAB amendments that were very critical, he added.
He said his client had demanded all the amendments to be annulled.
Justice Ijaz asked the counsel to highlight all such amendments that were contrary to the Constitution.
Haris said one such amendment was that the person who made the plea bargain could not become a witness.
Upon this, the chief justice observed that whether counsel was saying that many NAB amendments had made it difficult to prove the crime.
Advocate Khawaja Haris said under the amendments, relief was subject to the decision on an application.
The chief justice asked the counsel to inform the court if there was an emergency regarding the relief.
Later, the case was adjourned till August 5.