IHC raises questions over anti-graft court’s orders against Dar: report

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ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday expressed reservations over several orders passed by the accountability court conducting the trial of former finance minister Ishaq Dar in connection with National Accountability Bureau (NAB)’s reference accusing him of having assets beyond means, reported a local English daily.

The division bench, comprising Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb, has tasked the minister’s counsel and NAB’s prosecutor to argue if the trial court by declaring Dar a proclaimed offender has “exercised its discretion in accordance with law”.

The bench has sought arguments if the impugned orders through which the trial issued bailable, non-bailable and later proclamation order were “sustainable on the touchstone of reasonableness”.

The bench has also questioned if time prescribed under section 87 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), 1898 –  30 days – for declaring a suspect a proclaimed offender can be curtailed to 10 days under section 17 (c) of the NAB Ordinance of 1999 “in the absence of exceptional circumstances”.

During the hearing, the bench had noted that Dar’s counsel placed reliance on Section 205 of the CrPC in support of his contention that trial can continue in the absence of the accused and added that, under the same section, the judge can direct personal attendance of the accused, and, if necessary, enforce such attendance in the manner provided.

In his arguments, Dar’s counsel had said that an impression was being given that the former finance minister was running away from proceedings. The bench, however, had asked the lawyer to cite the laws that allow trial in single suspect’s absence.

Dar through his counsel had challenged several orders of the accountability court through which the court issued warrants and later declared him a proclaimed offender.

The counsel said that a petition regarding issuance of non-bailable arrest warrants was pending for adjudication. He added that despite the adjudication the accountability court declared him a proclaimed offender due to his absence from the court’s proceedings.

Dar’s surety-giver seeks three weeks to present finance minister before court.

Earlier on December 21, the accountability court had adjourned hearing of the case till January 2, after the IHC gave a stay order on the anti-graft court’s proceedings.

On July 28, a five-member Supreme Court bench had ordered NAB to file three references against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and one against Dar, on petitions filed by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s Imran Khan, Jamaat-e-Islami’s Sirajul Haq and Awami Muslim League’s Sheikh Rashid Ahmed.

In its reference against the finance minister, NAB alleged that “the accused has acquired assets and pecuniary interests/resources in his own name and/or in the name of his dependants of an approximate amount of Rs831.678 million (approx)”.

The reference alleged that the assets were “disproportionate to his known sources of income for which he could not reasonably account for”.

Last month, the government withdrew the portfolio of finance minister of Dar.

The IHC’s division bench would resume hearing on January 17.