ISLAMABAD: The government on Wednesday objected to the powers of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman regarding ‘voluntary return’ option for the recovery of illegal money from persons accused of corruption.
Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf Ali told a three-member bench of the Supreme Court that unfettered power of the NAB chairman to use the option of ‘voluntary return’ under the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO), 1999, was not a good law.
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The bench, headed by Justice Gulzar Ahmad, is seized with a suo motu case on the matter. It sought written replies from the attorney general as well as all advocates general and adjourned further proceedings until November 8.
Earlier during the hearing, the attorney general also informed the bench that the government had sent its recommendations to a parliamentary committee which had improved the first text of the law. He added there were 1,500 cases of voluntary return wherein 1,884 people got benefit.
The bench had expressed concern over the use of voluntary return by the NAB, saying that when an inquiry starts, NAB writes a letter to the accused for the voluntary return.
Last year, a three-member bench, headed by then chief justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali, had ordered the secretary Establishment Division and all the provincial chief secretaries to initiate proceedings against the employees who availed the voluntarily return option under Section 25-A of the NAO.
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And hearing NAB’s appeal in another case two member bench, headed then by Justice Amir Hani Muslim, has observed that the frequent exercise of voluntary return power by the NAB “multiplies corruption on the one side but it also defeated the purpose of NAB Ordinance” – elimination of corruption.
The court had observed that under Section 25-A of the NAO once the accused deposited the amount, he is allowed to continue his job without any departmental proceedings. It added that Section 25-A appeared to be in conflict with various provisions of the Constitution.
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