Supreme Court bars NAB, FIA from withdrawing high-profile cases

Also bans transfers, postings of officers linked to such cases: CJP remarks court’s orders meant to protect rule of law, criminal justice system

By: News Desk
Published: 02:29 PM, 19 May, 2022
Supreme Court bars NAB, FIA from withdrawing high-profile cases
Caption: File photo.
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The Supreme Court on Thursday barred the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) from withdrawing the high-profile cases from courts. The apex court also slapped a ban new appointments and transfers of officials involved in high-profile cases, National Accountability Bureau (NAB) cases as well as those being heard by special courts, reported 24NewsHD TV channel.

The apex court issued notices to NAB Chairman Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal, Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) director general and the interior secretary while hearing a suo motu case relating to "perceived interference" by "persons in authority" in investigations and legal proceedings of criminal matters against the government officials.

A five-member bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial took up the case on Thursday. The other judges on the bench wereJustice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi and Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar.  

While issuing notices, the apex court asked the parties concerned to give an explanation as to why there was "interference" in criminal cases. Notices were also issued to all the provincial prosecutor generals and the FIA's legal director.

While leading the proceedings, CJP Justice Umar Ata Bandial expressed his displeasure over transfers and postings of the officers investigating cases against Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz.

He ordered to seal the prosecution record and questioned, “Why is there interference in the high-profile cases? Why were the investigation officers transferred? Why was the officer investigating against Hamza Shehbaz removed?”

The CJP also said that the FIA director general had barred an investigation officer from appearing before the court.

“We want to learn about the removal of the prosecutor,” said the CJP, adding the previous FIA Director General Sanaullah Abbasi, who was removed from his post, was a reputed officer.

“Dr Rizwan was also replaced and later died of cardiac arrest,” he said and added: “We have concerns over these matters and want to know about their backgrounds.”

The CJP also stated, “The newspaper clippings show thousands of names were removed from the Exit Control List (ECL).”

He added, “At least 3,000 people benefitted after the ECL rules were modified. The court expects the federal government to be cooperative in explaining these steps.”

The CJP pointed out, “All of these reports are affecting the rule of law. It is our responsibility as per the Constitution to maintain confidence in institutions and peace in the society.”

The CJP observed, “The suo motu case on the apprehensions that criminal justice system may be undermined by people in positions of authority was taken on the transfer of FIA officers probing graft cases against Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz.”

The CJP said to the interior secretary to explain why he interfered with the prosecution process, adding: “According to reports, the officers investigating against Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif have been replaced.”

He sought explanation why the officers in high profile cases were transferred, stressing: “We want to ensure transparent and independent functioning of the prosecution branch.”

Justice Munib Akhtar remarked, “It seems targeted postings and transfers were carried out.”

Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar said in his remarks, “You cannot remove the names directly from the ECL. We have seen that the courts are approached to remove the names from the ECL.”

The CJP emphasised, “The court’s orders are not aimed at embarrassing or accusing someone. They are meant to protect the rule of law and criminal justice system.

The CJP warned, “Let no one tamper with the system of justice. We have no fear of criticism. We are answerable to Allah and the Constitution only.”

The CJP regretted, “The criminal record of the NAB has started disappearing. The accused in the cases have not been convicted. The courts did not even pronounce sentences.”

The CJP declared, “We want to maintain the dignity, honour and respect of the investigative process.”

A day earlier, the CJP had taken suo motu notice on the recommendations of a SC judge on perceived interference in the independence of the prosecution branch in the performance of its power and duties for investigation and prosecution of pending criminal matters involving persons in authority in government.

According to a press release issued by the apex court, such interference could influence the prosecution of cases, result in tampering or disappearing of evidence in courts or in possession of prosecuting agencies and lead to transfers and postings of officers on key posts.

The press release said that such actions, along with "media reports" about changes in accountability laws, were likely to "undermine" the functioning of the country's criminal justice system. "That [is tantamount] to violation of fundamental rights affecting the society as a whole and eroding [of] the confidence of the people in the rule of law and constitutionalism in the country," it added.