The top court has ordered its registrar office to ‘fix’ before a Supreme Court bench an application filed by former president Asif Zardari to transfer trial of a graft case from an accountability court in Islamabad to a similar court in Karachi within two weeks.
Supreme Court judge Umar Ata Bandial issued this order on Tuesday while hearing the PPP supreme leader’s application against the SC registrar office previous order.
On November 3, Zardari approached the apex court and requested it to transfer the Toshakhana or gift repository case from Islamabad’s Accountability Court No III to a court in Karachi in view of his ill health as well as availability of relevant records in Karachi.
The Registrar Officer, however, declared the civil miscellaneous appeal (CMA) as “not entertainable” and returned the CMA along with the paper books.
According to the SC office, the application was not entertainable as the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) – the prosecution in the case – had filed the reference in view of an order of the Supreme Court.
It said the top court had already rejected Zardari’s previous application to transfer the graft cases to Karachi courts. It said the SC rules forbid refiling a review application.
The PPP leader challenged the SC office’s order on November 10, claiming it was not sustainable in law and case law, as enunciated by the Supreme Court.
The appeal had said it is the constitutional right of the appellant to knock the door of the top court, but the SC's Registrar Office order showed that the rights of the appellant have been blocked at the institutional level, which is not a practice of the court.
It said the order was based on a misconception of law and rules framed by the apex court as the question of returning an application on non-maintainability relates to the judicial work which cannot be taken up on the executive side or through delegation of powers for exercising judicial work.
“The impugned order has been signed by the assistant registrar (Civil-II) for the registrar which is violative of Order 5, Rule 1 of Supreme Court Rules, 1980,” the application stated.
It said a perusal of Order 5 Rule 1 of the SC rules shows that the power of returning the application in original along with paper books is not within the ambit and power of an assistant registrar, questioning as to how can then an assistant registrar return it then.
On Tuesday, Justice Bandial heard the application in his chamber. Zardari’s counsel, Farooq H Naek, requested the SC judge to order the office to ‘fix’ the case before a bench at the earliest.
The judge noted that it was appropriate to refer the matter to a bench and ordered the registrar office to place the case before the bench within two weeks.
A written order in this regard is yet to be issued. Therefore, it is not clear whether or not the SC judge set aside the registrar office’s objections over Zardari application. Generally, an SC judge while hearing a plea in chamber orders the SC office to refer the case to a bench along with the registrar’s objections.