IHC raises questions over trial court’s orders against Dar

Division bench seeks arguments if accountability court exercised its discretion in accordance with law

Rizwan Shehzad December 27, 2017

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court on Tuesday raised a number of questions over several orders passed by the accountability court conducting the trial of former finance minister Ishaq Dar in connection with National Accountability Bureau (NAB)’s reference accusing him of amassing assets beyond means.

The division bench, comprising Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb, has tasked the minister’s counsel and NAB’s prosecutor to argue if the trial court by declaring Dar a proclaimed offender has “exercised its discretion in accordance with law.”

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The bench has sought arguments if the impugned orders through which the trial issued bailable, non-bailable and later proclamation order were “sustainable on the touchstone of reasonableness.”

The bench has also questioned if time prescribed under section 87 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1898 –  30 days – for declaring a suspect a proclaimed offender can be curtailed to 10 days under section 17 (c) of the NAB Ordinance of 1999 “in the absence of exceptional circumstances.”

Moreover, the court has asked “whether in the facts and circumstances of the petition, particularly, when the petitioner wants the trial to continue, initiating proceedings against him were in consonance with law.”

The questions emerged from the bench’s order passed on December 20. Through the order, IHC had stayed proceedings before the accountability court till January 17 observing that the questions of law raised needed consideration.

While granting stay, the court had also extended stay on the process of attaching moveable property of Dar’s surety giver, Ahmed Ali Quddusi, till the next date. Both the petitions were combined for hearing.

During the hearing, the bench had noted that Dar’s counsel placed reliance on Section 205 (magistrate may dispense with personal attendance of accused) of the Cr PC in support of his contention that trial can continue in the absence of the accused.

Interestingly, under the same section, the judge can direct personal attendance of the accused, and, if necessary, enforce such attendance in the manner provided.

During the hearing, the bench had enquired from NAB’s prosecutor to apprise the court how a trial court can reduce 30-day period into 10 days, while declaring a suspect proclaimed offender. “All are equal before law but the benefit of doubt is given to the suspect,” Justice Aurangzeb had remarked.

Justice Minallah had enquired if medical reports of the suspect had been verified. The prosecutor had replied that reports were forwarded to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a reply was awaited.

The court had remarked that NAB could have constituted a medical board to ascertain disease(s) while examining the medical reports produced by Ishaq Dar.

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At one point, Justice Minallah had remarked that the court could suspend the order declaring Dar a proclaimed offender before the completion of 30-day period. Or it can either suspend proceedings before the trial court till the next date, adding what option would the NAB prosecutor avail.

The prosecutor opted for the second option.

In his arguments, Dar’s counsel had said that an impression was being given that the former finance minister was running away from proceedings. He added that his client had requested the court to allow him to appoint a representative while he was in London for treatment but it was dismissed.

The bench, however, had asked the lawyer to cite the laws that allow trial in single suspect’s absence.

Dar through his counsel had challenged several orders of the accountability court through which the court issued warrants and later declared him a proclaimed offender.

The counsel said that a petition regarding issuance of non-bailable arrest warrants was pending for adjudication. He added that despite the adjudication the accountability court declared him a proclaimed offender due to his absence from the court’s proceedings.

The IHC’s division bench would resume hearing on January 17.


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