Setting up 120 courts to cost ‘Rs2.86b annually’

Govt submits reply in SC regarding establishing accountability courts


Hasnaat Malik July 22, 2020
The ministry reveals that there are 24 accountability courts functioning in the country. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD:

The government has told the Supreme Court that an amount of Rs2.86 billion per annum would be required to establishment 120 accountability courts.

The government reply came after the apex court on July 8 had ordered government’s action for setting up of the accountability courts to clear a huge backlog of cases as well as vacancies in five accountability courts out of a total of 25.

Moreover, it was revealed that a total of 975 corruption cases were pending in 24 accountability courts in the country. The figure is much lower than 1,226 pending cases submitted by NAB to the Supreme Court.

A report is submitted by the ministry of law and justice through Deputy Attorney General Sohail Mahmood regarding the apex court’s proposal about the setting up of 120 accountability courts to decide all pending graft cases.

The ministry reveals that there are 24 accountability courts functioning in the country. In addition, five vacant posts in the accountability courts have been filled through a notification issued on July 14.

The ministry report also shares details with the apex court of pendency in each accountability court. It is interestingly to note that the report points to less than 80 cases pending in every court. Average pendency of one accountability court is even less than 60 cases.

The law ministry further reveals that expenditure to establish a new accountability court comes to Rs23.87 million per annum. Consequently, an amount of Rs2.86 billion per annum would be required for to establish 120 accountability courts.

The ministry further shared requirements for the establishment of new courts: creation of posts by Establishment/Finance  Division, approval of budget from finance division as well as the federal cabinet and final approval of the federal cabinet for establishment of new courts.

It informed the Supreme Court that the ministry has started consultation with the relevant stakeholders to set up more courts.

During the last hearing on July 8, the Supreme Court had ordered the federal government to immediately appoint judges at five ‘vacant’ accountability courts while ‘proposing’ to establish at least 120 accountability courts in the country to deal with 1,226 pending cases.

The accountability courts were established under the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) 1999 to adjudicate corruption references filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) within 30 days.

A Supreme Court three-judge bench -- hearing a suo motu case regarding delay in trial of corruption cases – noted  that some corruption cases have been pending in these courts for 15 to 20 years while five accountability courts are without judges.

In its three-page written order issued after the hearing, the bench -- led by Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed -- said it was unable to find the rationale and logic behind the courts left ‘vacant’ for a long period by the relevant authorities, adding that NAB has provided no reason for this.

The order said the whole purpose of making accountability law seemed to be rendered futile if judges were not appointed to vacant courts. It noted that huge pendency of NAB cases demands appointment of more than hundred judges.

“In view of the prevailing situation, the court has directed secretary law to immediately get instruction regarding its proposal about creation of at least 120 accountability courts and to fill up such courts with judges and distribute all cases among them for expeditious disposal of cases.”

“The strength of accountability court all over Pakistan shall immediately be increased by the government in order to ensure that all the pending accountability cases come to their logical conclusion at fast pace and at least within three months time.”

The bench also ordered the law secretary to fill the five vacant posts in the accountability courts within a week, warning that otherwise the court will initiate coercive action against responsible officials.

The bench also summoned Attorney General for Pakistan Khalid Javed Khan as well as law secretary on the next date of hearing, which is yet to fix. NAB prosecutor general was also asked to appear along with a report duly signed by NAB chairman describing as to how NAB proposes early conclusion of cases.

"We may note that if measures are not adopted by the government and NAB, the whole purpose of law will stand vitiated which apparently was not the purpose of legislation,” said the order.

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