The apex court on Friday issued contempt notices to top officials of the country’s premier anti-graft body for not taking action against the accused in shady rental power project deals, including Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf.
Hearing review petitions against its earlier ruling in the RPPs case, a three-judge bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, asked eight officials of the National Accountability Bureau, including its chairman, to reply within a week as to why contempt proceedings should not be initiated against them for delaying investigations against the accused.
“The NAB chairman shall be [held] responsible if the officers responsible for delaying the implementation of the court’s judgment leave the country or take any other evasive measures,” the court order stated.
“Despite specific directions for implementing the judgment … NAB authorities intentionally avoided implementing them, which is a clear violation of the court’s directions and thereby constitutes contempt of court,” read the order.
While briefing the court about NAB’s progress in the case, the bureau’s deputy prosecutor general told the bench that no arrests had been made yet since investigators were ‘plea bargaining’ with the accused.
In its progress report, NAB stated that the accused wanted to settle the matter through plea bargain – an agreement whereby the accused agrees to plead guilty to a particular charge in exchange for some concession from the prosecutor.
To this, the bench admonished the NAB official saying that its judgment did not allow plea bargains. The arrests should take place first, it ordered.
While Justice Jawwad S Khawaja expressed concern over the bureau’s overall performance, Justice Chaudhry observed that NAB was turning into a body that promotes corruption instead of preventing it.
He also turned down a request from the NAB deputy prosecutor general for in-camera hearing of the case. Only cases concerning national security can be heard behind closed doors, he said and asked NAB to avoid misleading the court.
In its judgment passed on March 30, the apex court had declared all RPP agreements void and referred the case to NAB with directives to initiate criminal proceedings against those responsible – including Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf.
Talking to The Express Tribune after Friday’s proceedings, NAB Prosecutor General K K Agha said that the bureau had summoned Premier Ashraf several times for questioning.
“Arrest is not a viable option when the accused is cooperating,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 15th, 2012.
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