SC rejects NAB’s ‘frivolous’ plea against IHC decision to hear Sharifs’ petitions


ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) on Monday rejected a “frivolous” application of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) against the Islamabad High Court’s (IHC) Sept 10 decision to proceed with the petitions of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family members seeking the suspension of sentences awarded by an accountability court in the Avenfield apartments reference.

Imposing a fine of Rs20,000 on NAB, Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar remarked that justice should be served to the petitioners, asking why does the anti-graft body file such “frivolous” petitions.

“This is the regular mechanism. What is illegal in the IHC’s order?” remarked the CJP admonishing NAB Prosecutor Akram Qureshi for challenging high court’s decision.

On September 15, NAB moved the SC in a bid to prevent the Islamabad High Court (IHC) from its decision on a plea from the Sharif family seeking the suspension of the Avenfield verdict.

Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam and son-in-law Captain (r) Muhammad Safdar had moved the IHC to suspend the verdict in the Avenfield properties reference after they were convicted by Accountability Judge Mohammad Bashir on July 6, 2018.

The accountability court had sentenced Nawaz to 10 years in prison, Maryam to seven years and handed a one-year sentence to Capt Safdar.

According to a petition submitted in court by NAB Chairman Javed Iqbal, the high court did not send NAB a notice before accepting the Sharif family’s petition for hearing. “The high court cannot rule on the Sharif family’s petition without listening to NAB’s perspective,” the petition said.

Furthermore, the NAB chief said in his petition that ruling on the suspension application is not in the high court’s jurisdiction and thus the IHC should be stopped from hearing the petition at all.

Following the conviction, the Sharif family had filed several petitions seeking suspension of their sentences besides filing appeals challenging the convictions. NAB, however, raised objections to the court’s hearing of the petitions first instead of appeals, saying they were filed under “an irrelevant section of law”.

Moreover, quoting Section 497(3) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), the NAB prosecutor said “a convict facing lifetime imprisonment could file an appeal after completing a two-year sentence. For a 10-year imprisonment, the time limitation was one year, he said, adding that for a seven-year imprisonment, petitions seeking suspension of the sentence could only be filed after completing a six-month jail term”.

Earlier, the high court had turned down a NAB petition wherein it sought dismissal of Sharif family’s plea, saying it was not being made a party which made the petitions non-maintainable. Besides grilling NAB over lack of evidence in the Avenfield case, the high court had also transferred remaining two references against Nawaz Sharif — Flagship and Hill Metal — to the court of Judge Arshad Malik after Khawaja Haris filed a plea in the court.