ISLAMABAD: A Supreme Court judge on Thursday wondered if the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) would stand revived in its original form if recent amendments to the accountability law were struck down by the court.

Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah is one of the members of the three-member Supreme Court bench that had taken up a plea by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman and former prime minister Imran Khan challenging the recent amendments to the NAO.

Along with the amended petition moved to include challenging of more amendments to the NAO, Khawaja Haris also submitted a concise statement before the court to elaborate why the amendments were being assailed.

Justice Shah asked the senior counsel, who is representing Mr Khan, to cite any case law to suggest that if the apex court struck down the recent amendments to the accountability law, the previous law which was in force before the amendments would stand revived.

Imran’s revised plea accepted for hearing; his lawyer says amendments to affect rights of people, make accountability ineffective

Headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial and also consisting Justice Ijazul Ahsan, the bench however accepted the amended petition of the PTI chief for hearing when senior counsel Makhdoom Ali Khan did not oppose it on behalf of the federal government. The counsel however said he would file a concise statement to answer the issues raised in the amended petition.

The CJP also observed that the petition was not pleading to revive the previous law, but to strike down the law. The case will be taken up again on Sept 26 since one of the members of the bench was proceeding to attend a scholarly conclave abroad.

Referring to the previous concise statement filed by Makhdoom Ali Khan, CJP Bandial said on a lighter note that going through the document, he realised the counsel had kept his cards close to his chest and not divulged much. But now was a chance that more could be revealed when the federal government filed a response to the amended petition, the CJP observed.

At this, the counsel quipped by citing a Mirza Ghalib couplet: “Vo alag baandh ke rakha hai, jo maal acha hai.” (The finest quality goods have been kept separately)

Justice Shah also observed that going through the arguments of the counsel, it seemed they were akin to the principle of policy, which sought to ensure good quality education or good governance, but these were not enforceable, rather a kind of a wish list for serving the country.

Justice Shah also asked the counsel to suggest precedence that the courts should fill the void in case some provision of the law was devoid of or violated fundamental rights.

Khawaja Haris argued that the amendments to the NAO would inevitably affect fundamental rights of the people.

Published in Dawn, September 2nd, 2022

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