The Superior Judicial Council (SJC) must decide whether it has jurisdiction to prosecute the president of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) over a conduct complaint.
Sources told The Express Tribune that a SJC meeting will be held on July 12 (Monday) to consider the jurisdictional issue regarding the misconduct proceedings against the NAB chief.
The SJC – the constitutional forum that can hold superior court judges accountable – has five members. The Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) is the chairman of the SJC while two judges from the highest courts of the highest courts and two chief judges from the highest courts are members of the council.
Currently, CJP Gulzar Ahmed, Supreme Court Justices Judge Mushir Alam, Judge Umar Ata Bandial and Chief Justice of the Sindh High Court (SHC) Ahmed Ali M Shaikh and Chief Justice of the High Court Islamabad (IHC) Athar Minallah are members.
Last year, the council settled hearing complaints registered against outgoing NAB chairman Javed Iqbal.
Both were filed by attorneys – attorney Zafarullah, Saeed Zafar, and Mohsin Raza Ranjha – in 2019.
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Insiders also said the SJC sent a notice to Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) Khalid Jawed Khan to seek legal assistance on whether or not the council could pursue the misconduct complaint against the NAB chief. .
Legal experts believe that there is an ambiguity in the law that deals with the impeachment of the president of the NAB.
According to Article 6 of the NAB Ordinance, the president “may only be removed from office by reason of the dismissal of a judge of the Supreme Court”.
Likewise, legal experts argue that in view of the above provision, the president can be removed for the same reasons as a Supreme Court judge, as mentioned in the Supreme Court of Misconduct Justices 2009.
However, no separate mechanism is provided by law for the dismissal of the president of the NAB. Although it is not mentioned that the SJC could be a forum regarding his dismissal.
The law may provide clear guidelines for the appointment of the head of the NAB, but there is no clear mechanism for the removal of the head of the anti-transplant watchdog, according to legal experts.
In Asfand Yar Wali 2001/02, the highest court ordered the federal government to add conditions regarding the dismissal of the boss of the NAB where the government “had left out” the procedure for the head of the dog of custody of grafts.
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Interestingly, the Constitution is also silent on the impeachment of the president of the NAB. Article 209 talks about the dismissal of the judges and the Auditor General of Pakistan through the SJC.
Likewise, another constitutional article authorizes the dismissal of members of the Pakistan Election Commission (ECP) by the SJC. However, nothing is mentioned about the impeachment of the NAB chairman through the council.
In the judgment in the Panamagate case, former Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa also noted that the instruction to prosecute the head of the NAB under Article 209 of the Constitution may involve certain questions of skill.
Even the board raised the same jurisdictional issue when it filed a misconduct complaint against then-president NAB Qamar Zaman. This complaint was filed by the outgoing PTI Information Minister, Fawad Chaudhry, in light of the Supreme Court’s observations in the Panamagate decision.
Some lawyers believe that if the law is silent, the appointing authority (President of Pakistan) can remove the person under the General Clauses Act 1897.
A senior Justice Department official said if the SJC found it lacked jurisdiction to deal with the corruption watchdog misconduct complaint, the federal government could pass new legislation to end to ambiguity.
The term of the outgoing head of the NAB ends in October of this year. However, there are reports that the government is considering various options to grant it an extension through legislation.
Political analysts say opposition parties will firmly resist any government move to extend the tenure of the outgoing NAB chairman.
During the tenure of the outgoing president of the NAB, many politicians belonging mainly to opposition parties were sent behind bars during the investigation phase.