ISLAMABAD: The apex court on Wednesday ruled that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman cannot take decisions that effectively revive the spirit of the National Reconciliation Ordinance and engenders corruption.
Justice Qazi Faez Isa, in his 14-page judgement, rejected former adviser to Balochistan Chief Minister Khalid Langove’s bail in the mega corruption case and questioned the NAB chairman’s decision to allow a plea bargain to former finance secretary Mushtaq Ahmad Raisani.
The court observed that the discretion vested in the chairman under section 25 (b) of the NAB Ordinance to allow plea bargain to any accused is structured; it is neither absolute, nor unfettered nor arbitrary.
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“The chairman and prosecutor-general are statutory functionaries and they cannot be removed from office, except on the grounds of removal of a judge of Supreme Court of Pakistan (section 6(b)(i) and section 8(a)(iv) respectively of the NAB Ordinance). The extraordinary protection accorded to them insulates them from outside pressures and to ensure their full impartiality and independence; the necessary corollary is for them to act strictly in accordance with the law.”
The bench observed that NAB is sustained by taxpayers and is ultimately accountable to them. “If the provisions of the NAB Ordinance are not strictly observed, its credibility and reputation is tarnished and it becomes another moribund organisation,” it read.
It stated that the officers of NAB must remind themselves of the reason for which the bureau was set up. The chairman and the PGA have designated roles under NAB Ordinance and it is imperative that they act in accordance with it.
“We, therefore, order and direct that the provisions of the NAB Ordinance must be adhered to; the provisions which have been considered by us above must be strictly abided by the chairman and prosecutor general accountability of NAB,” said the verdict.
The court observed that the chairman should not simply follow the recommendations of the DG (Operations) and DG Balochistan, two of his subordinates, and the recommendation of the PGA and accepted the offer of the plea bargain.
“The law is very clear, the chairman must exercise his discretion after taking into consideration the facts and circumstances of the case, as stipulated in section 25 (b) of the NAB Ordinance, but he did not do so.”
The DG Balochistan and the DG (Operations) recommended the acceptance of the plea bargain application without investigating, let alone determining, whether the accumulated treasure trove of the said cache was a onetime attempt at defalcation by the accused or if they had siphoned off monies from the public exchequer in the past as well.
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No mention was made of investigating the financial history, income tax returns, bank accounts or properties of the accused to uncover their past practices despite the extraordinary powers vesting in NAB to do so.
The chairman too remained remiss of his responsibility to ensure that his subordinates had fully investigated the case and if their recommendations were well founded.
The order said that the raid was conducted on May 6, 2016 but till the hearing of this case, on February 14, 2017, the chairman had not filed the requisite reference.
“According to the Chairman, Qamaruz Zaman, the reason for the delay was because the plea bargain application was not approved by the accountability court; but, when we called upon him to justify his response with reference to any provision of the NAB Ordinance, he was rendered speechless,” the order said.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 23rd, 2017.