After three days of confusion, mystery and speculations, it has now transpired that the matter of PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif's post-arrest bail will be decided by a referee judge to be appointed by the Lahore High Court (LHC) Chief Justice Muhammad Qasim Khan.
Shehbaz, who is facing a NAB case, had applied for a post-arrest bail and an LHC division bench comprising Justice Sardar Muhammad Sarfraz Dogar and Asjad Javed Ghural on April 14 briefly reserved the judgment after hearing arguments of both the parties.
While counsels for Shehbaz and the PML-N workers and leaders were waiting for the bench to unveil its order, the bell outside one of the judges' chambers rang. Later, the court staff emerging from the chamber announced that “the bail is allowed”.
After the announcement, the PML-N leaders and workers went into a celebratory mode, with some even throwing currency notes in the air. Some PML-N leaders had later addressed the media and came down hard on the PTI led government and NAB.
However, lawyers of Shehbaz Sharif failed to get the court's written order.
On Saturday Justice Dogar issued his written order in which he stated that the bench had unanimously agreed to grant bail to Shehbaz but when he [Justice Dogar] sent a short order for Justice Ghural's signature, the latter said he wanted to write a dissenting note.
Justice Ghural on the other hand also issued his dissenting note in which he said he had hinted at rejecting Shehbaz's bail both during the hearing and during the bench member's discussion inside the chamber.
According to Justice Ghural, Justice Dogar later unilaterally asked a court official to verbally announce that the bail had been granted. He said his fellow judge later sent a short order to his office for his signature which he refused to sign.
Justice Ghural said he brought the matter to the knowledge of the LHC chief justice immediately and requested him to appoint a referee judge to decide the bail matter.
Both the bench members have forwarded their separate judgments to LHC Chief Justice Muhammad Qasim Khan. The CJ will nominate a third referee judge whose judgment will determine whether Shehbaz can come out of prison or not. The third judge may even hear the parties once again.
Interestingly, the division bench has already been dissolved and both the judges have been transferred to the LHC benches in other districts.
National Assembly Leader of the Opposition Shehbaz Sharif was arrested by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on September 28, 2020 after the LHC rejected his bail plea in a money laundering case.
Shehbaz was taken into custody from the court's premises, where a large number of PML-N workers and supporters had gathered ahead of the hearing.
The NAB reference mainly accuses Shehbaz of being beneficiary of assets held in the name of his family members and benamidars who had no sources to acquire such assets.