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Imran Khan Claims Denial of Legal Access in Supreme Court Hearing

Former Prime Minister Imran Khan informed the Supreme Court that he was not being allowed to meet with his lawyers to prepare arguments for a case related to amendments made to the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO). A five-member bench of the Supreme Court resumed hearing the NAB amendments case, with Khan joining via video link from Adiala Jail.

The court, in a 4:1 decision, ruled against livestreaming the proceedings, with Justice Athar Minallah dissenting. Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa stated that the case would not be livestreamed as it was not deemed a matter of public interest. However, responding to Khan’s complaint, Justice Isa assured him that he would be allowed to meet his lawyer as often as needed.

The hearing was subsequently adjourned without setting a date for the next session. In the previous hearing, which had been adjourned indefinitely, orders were issued to ensure Khan’s presence via video link at the next hearing, which ended without Khan speaking.

The bench is presided over by Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa, with Justices Amin-ud-Din, Jamal Mandokhail, Athar Minallah, and Hassan Azhar Rizvi also on the panel.

The amendments to the accountability laws were introduced by the Pakistan Democratic Movement-led government in 2022. These amendments included reducing the term of the NAB chairman and prosecutor general to three years, limiting NAB’s jurisdiction to cases involving over Rs500 million, and transferring all pending inquiries, investigations, and trials to the relevant authorities.

Imran Khan filed a petition in 2022 challenging these amendments, alleging they were made to benefit influential accused persons and legitimize corruption. The federal government, in its appeal, requested the Supreme Court to set aside the September 15 majority judgment that declared the NAO amendments illegal. On September 15, 2023, the court ruled by a two-to-one majority that public representatives who benefited from the amendments would have to face corruption references again.

The federal government argued in its intra-court appeals that during the hearings, Imran Khan was given opportunities to make verbal submissions over 27 hearings and to make submissions in rebuttal, while the federation was restricted to answering the bench’s queries. Additionally, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government filed an application requesting the hearing be livestreamed.

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