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Supreme Court Adjourns NAB Law Amendments Case for Indefinite Period

The Supreme Court has indefinitely adjourned a case regarding amendments to the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) 1999. This significant delay marks a pause in the legal proceedings concerning the law that governs the country’s top anti-corruption entity.

During the hearing, the apex court instructed former Prime Minister Imran Khan to appear via video link for the next session, underscoring the importance of his involvement in the ongoing litigation.

The federal government, in its appeal, sought to overturn the majority judgment issued on September 15, which deemed the amendments to the NAO unlawful.

On September 15, 2023, the Supreme Court, with a majority of two-to-one, ruled that public representatives benefiting from the amendments made by the Pakistan Democratic Movement government in the NAO would need to face corruption charges anew.

Through intra-court appeals, the federal government argued that Imran Khan, who contested the amendments, had been given ample opportunities during the hearings to present his case, while the government’s representation was restricted to responding to bench queries.

In a hearing presided over by a five-member SC bench including Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa, Justice Aminuddin Khan, Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail, Justice Athar Minallah, and Justice Azhar Hasan Rizvi, arguments were presented by the government’s counsel, Makhdoom Ali Khan.

Imprisoned former Prime Minister Imran Khan appeared in court via video link, clad in a light blue shirt. Senior counsel Khawaja Haris Ahmed, representing respondent number one, was also present.

Previously, the court had indicated that a fee would be required for Haris’s attendance, but he declined any remuneration.

During the proceedings, Justice Minallah inquired about the pending application related to NAB amendments in the high court, to which the government’s counsel affirmed its scheduling for a hearing.

Chief Justice Isa instructed the counsel to procure a complete record of the amendments from the high court and advised speaking louder for the benefit of the former premier.

The prolonged duration of the case, spanning 53 hearings, prompted queries from the bench regarding the extensive timeline. Makhdoom attributed the extended duration to the petitioner’s extensive arguments throughout 2022.

The Chief Justice expressed dismay over the extended proceedings, questioning the necessity for such prolonged litigation concerning a few amendments. He underscored the importance of hearing the case promptly instead of suspending laws without thorough consideration.

Justice Mandokhail raised concerns regarding suspending legislation during the bill stage, equating it to halting parliamentary proceedings. The bench emphasized the need for expedited resolution to prevent obstructing legislative processes, ultimately hampering the nation’s progress.

The court’s decision to adjourn the case indefinitely signifies a significant development in the ongoing legal battle surrounding amendments to the NAB laws, with implications for governance and accountability in the country.

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