KARACHI: Another bench of the Sindh High Court (SHC) declined on Monday to hear the bail plea of former petroleum minister Dr Asim Hussain in a Rs462.5 billion corruption case against him.
Dr Asim's bail application was put off yet again, as a judge in a division bench rescued himself from hearing the matter. The SHC division bench, comprising Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar and Justice Adnan Karim Memon, was tasked with the disposal of the bail plea. However, the matter was referred back to the provincial chief justice, as Justice Memon declined to be a part of the hearing.
A similar situation has been observed earlier a number of times when some judges in the benches tasked with this and similar matters relating to Dr Asim declined to hear the case. Dr Asim is facing three cases against him, out of which two pertain to corruption while the third is related to facilitating terrorism. He was granted bail in the terrorism case in November after a fifth in row bench constituted to hear his matters finally passed an order.
The case in question is about the first reference brought up against him by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on February 25. It pertains to an alleged scam, in which gas was illegally curtailed to the agriculture sector to benefit a particular group associated with the fertiliser industry. NAB contends that through this phenomenon, the price of fertilisers was arbitrarily hiked in the country and the minister received kickbacks in return. Furthermore, the same reference reads about a land scam, public fraud and money laundering.
The overall amount involved in this investigation is Rs462.5 billion. Former petroleum and natural resources secretary Ejaz Chaudhry, Karachi Docks Labour Board's former chief executive officer Safdar Hussain, Karachi Development Authority former-directors Syed Athar Hussain and Masood Haider Jaffery, and Ziauddin's group finance director Abdul Hameed have also been named as co-accused in this case.
Dr Asim, who is a close friend of former president and Pakistan Peoples Party co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari, has been behind bars for over a year now.
This was the second hearing since December 20, when the matter was adjourned by another bench after a NAB prosecutor pointed out that the investigation officer of the case was not present.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 27th, 2016.
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