The Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Justice Qazi Faez Isa, has directed accountability courts to proceed with hearing graft cases but has restricted them from issuing final orders. The government had appealed against a majority judgment declaring amendments to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) law as unconstitutional. A similar appeal by former Sui Southern Gas Company Limited (SSGCL) managing director Zuhair Ahmed Siddiqui was also heard.
During the proceedings, the bench questioned how the majority judges struck down the first and second amendments in the NAB law without examining the third amendment introduced in the legislation.
Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Awan requested an adjournment until the following week due to the unavailability of the government’s counsel, Makhdoom Ali Khan. However, CJP Isa noted that the court had received other applications.
Advocate Farooq H Naek, representing Siddiqui, asked the court to suspend its September 15 verdict on amendments to the NAB law. When asked if he was opposed to the Supreme Court’s verdict, Naek replied in the affirmative.
CJP Isa then inquired whether Naek maintained his position that a five-member bench should hear the NAB amendments case, as per the SC (Practice and Procedures) Act. He directed Naek to present arguments on this point, suggesting that if satisfied, the court might restore the petitions against the NAB amendments and constitute a new bench.
The court also discussed the possibility of proceeding with the current appeals, pending the detailed SC order on the law curtailing the top judge’s powers. However, Naek requested to be made a respondent in the case.
The court referred to Justice Shah’s detailed dissenting note on the SC verdict on NAB amendments and mentioned that changes could be made to the plea based on this dissenting note. Naek expressed concerns that his client could potentially face a verdict under the NAB courts.
The apex court noted that under the September 15 verdict, all trials were to begin afresh, and the amendments to the NAB law had not eliminated any prior corruption allegations but had merely changed the forum for accountability. Cases involving amounts and properties under Rs500 million were now outside of NAB’s jurisdiction.
The court debated whether the case could proceed on merit, considering that the status of the appeals could be altered based on the verdict issued in SC (Practice and Procedure) Act 2023. Ultimately, the hearing was adjourned until the detailed verdict on the SC law is issued. Naek’s request to suspend the September 15 judgment on NAB law amendments was rejected, and accountability courts were restrained from issuing a final verdict on corruption cases until a decision is reached on the current appeals. This marks the first instance of intra-court appeals (ICAs) being taken up by the apex court following its short order on October 11, upholding the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Act 2023.