ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court will take up on Sept 1 a 2018 plea filed by former finance minister Shaukat Fayaz Ahmed Tarin challenging the institution of a corruption reference against him by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) over the Rental Power Project (RPP) controversy.

A two-judge Supreme Court bench comprising Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial and Justice Ayesha Malik will take up the petition filed in June 2018 through senior counsel Salman Aslam Butt to seek quashment of the 2014 reference.

In the petition, Mr Tarin has requested the Supreme Court to declare the reference as illegal, without jurisdiction and without lawful effect, besides setting aside the April 17, 2018, order of maintaining it by the Islamabad High Court (IHC).

The petitioner argues that the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) is inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution and consequently all actions taken under it are illegal, void, without lawful authority and of no legal effect.

Ex-minister wants top court to declare reference in RPP case against him ‘illegal’

The petition also requested the top court to stay the operation of all proceedings in connection with the reference during the pendency of the case.

The corruption reference was filed after the 2012 judgement of the Supreme Court in the RPP case. But the petition argued that RPP policy was initiated in 2006, prior to the term of the petitioner as the finance minister.

In March 2008, the then PPP government had decided that the Pakistan Electric Power Company (Pvt) Ltd (Pepco) will arrange RPP projects of up to 1,067 megawatts to cope with the energy shortfall which was then prevalent in the country.

Subsequently on May 11, 2008, the water and power ministry moved a summary in the cabinet for setting up of Independent Power Projects (IPPs) of 1,000MW in the private sector and RPPs for 200MW, through international competitive bidding, which was approved by the cabinet.

On Sept 7, 2008, the ministry submitted another summary for the Economic Coordination Committee of the Cabinet proposing to enhance the approved power capacity of RPPs, which was also approved by the ECC.

In pursuance of the Supreme Court judgement, NAB initiated an inquiry through its executive board on May 23, 2013, which concluded that Mr Tarin’s name may not be included in the list of the accused.

However, without even taking into consideration Mr Tarin’s position, NAB filed a reference in the Accountability Court of Islamabad on Feb 27, 2014, in respect of the RPP contract awarded to Messrs Pakistan Power Resources (Pvt.) Limited, which was to be situated/located at Piranghaib, Multan.

Mr Tarin then challenged the legality and validity of the reference in the IHC. However, his plea was dismissed on April 17, 2018. Now the petition has assailed the high court verdict as being illegal, unconstitutional, without jurisdiction and in violation of his fundamental rights.

The petitioner pleaded that the IHC had erred by dismissing his petition on technical grounds, when it was a settled proposition of the administration of justice that cases, especially of a constitutional nature affecting the life and liberty of a citizen, ought to be decided on merits and not on hyper-technicalities of procedure.

Published in Dawn, August 30th, 2022

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