The Supreme Court (SC) on Friday, by a 2-1 majority decision, ordered to restore the dismissal of corruption charges against public office holders that had been withdrawn following changes to the country’s accountability laws.
A three-judge court comprised of Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ijazul Ahsan, and Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah delivered the reserved judgment on PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s 2022 appeal challenging changes to accountability legislation.
CJP Bandial and Justice Ahsan upheld Imran’s petition, although Justice Shah disagreed with the majority decision.
The former premier filed an appeal with the Supreme Court in June 2022, challenging revisions to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) ordinance issued under the National Accountability (Second Amendment) Act 2022.
The amendments to the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) 1999 made several changes, including limiting the NAB chairman’s and prosecutor general’s terms to three years, limiting NAB’s jurisdiction to cases involving more than Rs500 million, and transferring all pending inquiries, investigations, and trials to the relevant authorities.
The PTI president alleged in his plea that the revisions to the NAB law were meant to favor important accused persons and legitimise corruption.
During recent hearings, Justice Shah repeatedly requested that the case be heard by the whole court, citing the frozen Supreme Court (Practise and Procedure) law.
The Supreme Court reserved its decision in the case on September 5, after 53 sessions, with members of the three-judge bench discussing parliament’s power to adopt legislation with a retroactive effect. In reference to the decision, the bench stated that something “short and sweet” would be revealed soon.
Imran claimed in his appeal that the revisions to the NAB law were meant to favor influential accused persons and legitimise corruption.
The PML-N-led coalition government proposed 27 major revisions to the NAO, but President Dr Arif Alvi refused to sign them. However, the law was passed in a joint session of parliament and afterward notified.
The petition stated that the new amendments tend to dismiss corruption proceedings against the president, prime minister, chief ministers, and ministers, while also giving convicted public officials the opportunity to have their convictions restored.
“The amendments to the NAO are tantamount to depriving the citizens of Pakistan of having access to the law to effectively question their chosen representatives in cases of breach of duty towards the people of Pakistan,” the petition stated.
In addition, the word “benamidar” has been re-defined, making it challenging for the prosecution to prove someone as a false property owner, according to the appeal.