Imran Khan appears before SC via video link in NAB law amendments case

Imran Khan appears before SC via video link in NAB law amendments case

Islamabad (Web Desk): Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) founder and former premier Imran Khan appeared before the Supreme Court (SC) via video link from Rawalpindi's Adiala jail in the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) amendments case on Thursday.

A five-member larger bench of the SC headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa and comprising Justice Ameenuddin, Justice Jamal Mandokhel, Justice Athar Minallah, Justice Hassan Azhar Rizvi, heard intra-court appeals filed by the government against the verdict declaring the NAB amendments null and void.

During today’s hearing, senior counsel Khawaja Haris, who earlier represented Imran Khan in the first round of litigation, appeared before the court for legal assistance while Makhdoom Ali Khan was present on behalf of the federal government.

At the outset of today’s hearing, the CJP called Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Usman Awan to the rostrum along with the government's counsel, Makhdoom Ali Khan.

Khawaja Haris, who earlier represented Imran during the first round of litigation, also appeared in court. The chief justice said he was the counsel in the "original case" and the court would also like to hear his stance.

Haris informed the court that he would assist the court in the matter. Following his remarks, the chief justice asked Haris to present his arguments loudly to ensure Imran can hear via video link.

The government's counsel then began presenting his arguments and informed the apex court that the NAB amendment case was sub judice before the Islamabad High Court (IHC).
When Justice Minallah asked if the petition was accepted by the IHC, Makhdoom replied in affirmative.

The CJP then sought the records of the case in the IHC, including the order.
Justice Athar Minallah inquired about the objections raised by the registrar's office on the plea of the PTI founder, to which Makhdoom responded that the petitioner hadn't approached any other forum.

He added that the SC had removed the objection and issued notices to the respondents on July 19, 2022.

When asked by Justice Minallah about the number of hearings in the main case, Makhdoom stated there were a total of 53.

The CJP questioned why the case dragged on for so long, to which the government’s lawyer explained that the petitioner took extended time in presenting arguments.

Justice Mandokhail then asked about the time taken to legislate the NAB laws in 1999. AGP Awan replied that the NAB laws were enacted within a month after the martial law was imposed.

Expressing astonishment at the prolonged case, the CJP remarked on the 53 hearings. He raised concerns about the case being accepted for hearing in the SC while sub judice before the IHC, asking if the court addressed this in the judgment. Makhdoom Ali Khan replied affirmatively, citing a paragraph from the order.

When asked about the time taken on the main case, the government’s lawyer mentioned that the petitioner's lawyer spent the entire 2022 arguing the case.

Justice Mandokhail asked about the time taken to draft the complete NAO. The AGP mentioned that the ordinance was prepared within two months after Musharraf came to power.

Expressing dismay at the lengthy proceedings, CJP Isa questioned why it took so long, especially with Makhdoom Ali Khan present in the case.

The government counsel explained that it took considerable time for the petition to be declared maintainable.

Justice Minallah noted the suspension of the Practice and Procedure Act, affecting the presence of a committee. Makhdoom mentioned Justice Mansoor Ali Shah advising against proceeding with the NAB law case without deciding on the Practice and Procedure Act.

The CJP questioned the sustainability of suspending laws, likening it to suspending parliamentary proceedings. He expressed concerns about the consequences of such actions on the country's progress.

Justice Mandokhail questioned if suspending a bill was akin to suspending parliament's proceedings. The CJP criticized the practice, questioning the integrity of suspending laws one dislikes.

Later, the court adjourned the hearing for an indefinite period, with the CJP stating that he would not be present in the country during the months of June.

During the last hearing, the apex court had ordered the authorities concerned to arrange video link facility for incarcerated Imran Khan to present his arguments in the NAB amendment case.

“The PTI founder can present his arguments in the upcoming hearing via video link if he wishes to do so,” CJP Isa remarked and ordered, “Arrangements should be made for presentation of Khan’s arguments via video link on May 16.

The attorney general of Pakistan, however, said that ex-PTI chairman had not appeared in the court in connection with the case even once. “Therefore, there is no need to summon him in person.”

Justice Athar Minallah said that the former prime minister ought to have been produced in the court.

“After all, he had filed the petition against NAB amendments. How can we stop him from appearing in the court,” the judge remarked.

NAB misused its powers without any fear of accountability. “The bureau was used for political engineering,” he maintained, adding, “Imran is himself a NAB’s victim.”

Last year, a three-member bench of the apex court had approved former prime minister Khan’s petition challenging amendments made to the country’s accountability laws during the tenure of the previous Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM)-led government.

The larger bench in its October 31 order asked the accountability courts to proceed with trials but refrained them from announcing the final judgment.

The top court by a majority of 2-1 had declared the amendments to NAO 2000 as unconstitutional.

It had ordered the reopening of all corruption cases worth less than Rs500 million that were previously closed against political leaders from various parties and public office holders.

Moreover, the SC had directed the NAB to return all case records to the relevant courts within seven days.