SC dismisses pleas seeking larger bench

ISLAMABAD: Declaring inquiry of top watchdog in billions of rupees fake bank account as a statutory right of the National Accountability Bureau on Tuesday the Supreme Court dismissed review pleas of leadership of PPP seeking larger bench to revisit the court’s earlier order of Joint Investigation Team formation to probe into the matter, says TLTP.

A three-member bench of the Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa dismissed the pleas of former president Asif Ali Zardari, his sister Faryal Talpur, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Chief Minister Sindh Syed Murad Ali Shah and others. The review pleas were filed on the grounds that constitutional provision has nothing to do with the formation of a Joint Investigation Team to probe into the matter.

While raising objection over Joint Investigation Team that Supreme Court had formed to probe into fake bank account matter Zardari’s counsel Sardar Latif Khosa questioned Supreme Court suo moto power saying Pakistan is not a common law country as its system is regulated by codified law. Advocate Khosa further said that Supreme Court can give authority to executive only under the codified law.

Responding to the argument, Chief Justice Khosa observed bottom line is that billion rupees fake account have been unearthed saying how it would be possible that everyone should keep silent over the disclosure of information.

A member of the bench Justice Ijazul Ahsan categorically said that Article 190 empowers the apex court to seek aid of all executive and judicial authorities under which the matter has been forwarded to National Accountability Bureau.

Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa said while addressing Zardari’s counsel, “if nothing is discovered in result of inquiry of the NAB, no reference would be filed against your client whereas Justice Ijazul Ahsan said if fake bank account has no link with Zardari then it is the best time for him to get separated from the allegation by defending before NAB inquiry”.

Justice Ijazul Ahsan further said that Supreme Court had vested the inquiry to the NAB in the matter after investigators of the Federal Investigation Agency submitted before the court that they were receiving threats whereas the concerned departments failed to provide information to the Agency. Justice Ijazul Ahsan pointed out that the situation led the apex court to issue directives to Pakistan Rangers to protect the lives of investigators and witnesses in the matter. 

Concluding his arguments, Sardar Latif Khosa urged the court to form a larger bench in order to revisit formation of JIT in the matter to which Justice Ijazul Ahsan said, “Much water has gone under the bridge – the case was made out and matter was referred to National Accountability Bureau – if nothing is wrong the NAB will exonerate Zardari in the matter”.

Besides, the Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa repeatedly observed during the course of proceedings while addressing to Zardari’s counsel, “If this court has determined something in this matter then your client has right of appeal but in this case, there is no determination at all”.

NNI adds: Meanwhile, Pakistan People’s Party has expressed disappointment over the rejection of the review petitions in the benami accounts case and called for an early determination of the limits of suo moto powers of the Supreme Court.

In a statement Tuesday Secretary General of the Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarians former Senator Farhatullah Babar said that the points raised in the review petition particularly with regard to the limitations on exercise of suo moto powers are of fundamental importance and calls for a parliamentary debate on the determination of limits of these powers.

He also recalled the interview of Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari in Munich the other day underlining that he had not been given an opportunity to present his point of view in a court of law in the said case which, he said, was a negation of the constitutionally guaranteed right to fair trial under Article 10-A of the Constitution. Suo moto notice was taken by the Supreme Court on the ground of slackness in investigations in the case, he said.

Bilawal Bhutto had in his petition questioned whether slackness in the progress of a case constituted a valid ground for use of suo moto powers. FIR had been registered, investigations were continuing, preliminary report had been finalized and the case was proceeding in banking court he said.

That is why the review petition also urged the Supreme Court to constitute a larger bench to address the constitutional issue of limits of suo mot powers, Farhatullah Babar said. He said that the Supreme Court was the highest court of appeal against which there is no appeal. When it decides a case by taking a suo moto notice the aggrieved is left with no forum to appeal the verdict.

Absence of a forum for appeal is against the basic principle of justice and therefore it is all the more necessary to revisit the procedure for taking up cases under suo moto powers, he said.

The PPP however has always respected Court verdicts even if it disagreed with them, he said. The PPP therefore will work towards a parliamentary debate on Article 184 (3) of the Constitution with a view to making legislation for a determination of the powers under suo moto jurisdiction, he said.

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