PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court has suspended an accountability court (AC) order that restrained the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa from collecting embezzled money returned voluntarily by suspects.
A PHC bench comprising Justice Yahya Afridi and Justice Irshad Qaiser suspended the order on Tuesday. NAB Deputy Prosecutor General Muhammad Jamil Khan told the court that on June 13, a three-member AC bench, comprising judges Muhammad Ibrahim Khan, Tariq Yousafzai and Asim Imam, restrained the bureau from collecting voluntary returns from those charged with corruption.
“Under the NAB Ordinance 1999, the suspect reserves the right to return the embezzled amount to the bureau during the enquiry stage, following which the accused is neither disqualified from service nor sentenced for the offence,” he said.
Jamil further contended that in this scenario, the accused cannot be barred from obtaining loans from any financial institution for 10 years.
Section 25 of the ordinance states, “Where at any time, whether before or after the commencement of trial, the holder of a public office or any other person accused of any offence under this ordinance, returns the assets or gains acquired through corruption or corrupt practices to NAB, then the [bureau] chairman may release him. If the trial has commenced, the court may with the consent of the chairman release the accused.”
Jamil Khan said on the other hand, the AC declared that once the accused is arrested and the enquiry converts into an investigation, the embezzled money cannot be recovered under the voluntary return system. Instead, a plea bargain should be carried out.
“In the case of Awami National Party Chief Asfandyar Wali Khan, the Supreme Court of Pakistan had declared that the accused can opt for voluntary return or plea bargain of his own accord,” the DPG added.
Jamil said the AC decision deprives the accused of fundamental rights and also contradicts an apex court directive. He requested the court to declare the AC verdict null and void.
Upon hearing the arguments, the court suspended the AC judgment and allowed NAB detainees to return embezzled sums voluntarily. It also directed the Attorney General of Pakistan and the AC registrar to submit their responses in the instant case.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 15th, 2015.
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