Supreme Court Judge Justice Mansoor Ali Shah on Friday suggested Chief Justice (CJ) Umar Ata Bandial constitute a full court to hear Pakistan Tekreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) petition against the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) amendments.
An application was filed by the PTI chief last year with the apex court challenging National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) 2000 by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N)-led coalition government.
Later, a report submitted by the graft buster to the apex court revealed that the NAO had ended up benefitting over 90 per cent of cases, including high-profile ones, that NAB was dealing with.
Experts note that the case carries significant importance as it revolves around the alterations introduced to the National Accountability (Second Amendment) Act in 2022 by the previous Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) government, which assumed power in April of the same year.
The PTI heavily criticised the PDM’s decision to approve these amendments, denouncing it as an attempt to limit the anti-graft watchdog’s authority.
Furthermore, in July of last year, the federal cabinet passed the National Accountability (Third Amendment) Bill for 2022. This bill further restricted the NAB’s role in corruption cases involving amounts exceeding Rs500 million. Additionally, it rescinded the president’s ability to appoint judges for the accountability court.
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A three-member bench led by the CJ comprising Justice Mansoor and Justice Ijzaul Ahsan continued the proceedings today, marking the 48th hearing thus far.
Throwing his weight behind the forming of a full court to decide the matter, Justice Mansoor emphasised the need for the apex court to decide the SC (Practice and Procedure) Act.
Referring to his note written in the military trial case where he had made the same suggestion, he said that the NAB amendments case should be heard by the full court. “If the Practice and Procedure Act case had been already decided, things would have been very different,” he said but regretted that the apex court is yet to decide on petitions challenging the law.
“I would still request the CJ today that the NAB amendments matter should be heard by a full court,” he added.
CJ Bandial however remarked that the parties should give final arguments at the next hearing. “This case is pending since 2022, it is not necessary to give a decision on the merits of the case,” he said, “No one has challenged the amendments made in the NAB law before us.”
“My retirement is fast-approaching and this is a very important case. I will have to give a decision come what may,” he said. “It will be a shame if I fail to give a judgment on the matter.”
Later, the apex court postponed the hearing until August 28.