ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Friday heard former prime minister Imran Khan’s petition challenging amendments in the National Accountability (NAB) Ordinance by the government.
A three-member bench of the Supreme Court comprising Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ijaz Ul Ahsan and Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah heard the case.
During the course of proceedings, Justice Mansoor Ali Shah raised important questions on the conduct of Imran Khan and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and said that Imran Khan and his party avoided voting on the NAB Amendment Bill.
He asked whether an abstainer in the Parliament had the right to claim in court?
He asked could a member of the assembly abstain from the parliamentary proceedings?
He asked was it not weakening the Parliament to bring the work done in the Parliament to the courts? If the resignation was not accepted, it meant that the assembly membership remained intact, he added.
He said that the member of the assembly was the representative of the people of the constituency and the trustee of their trust.
He asked was it right for the trustee of public trust to boycott the parliament?
He asked was not boycotting the time of legislation and then going to court weakening parliamentary democracy?
Justice Mansoor questioned how would it be determined that the NAB amendments were a case of public interest and importance?
He asked the public interest was to be determined by the three judges sitting in the court. He asked whether people were shouting against NAB amendments?
He said that it had not been pointed out which fundamental rights the NAB amendments conflicted with. Imran Khan’s lawyers continued to mention Islamic provisions and the basic structure of the constitution, he added.
Advocate Makhdoom Ali Khan counsel for the federal government said that if Imran Khan wanted, he could have defeated the NAB amendments in the assembly. All PTI members would have been in the majority if they had come to the joint meeting, he added.
Upon this, the Chief Justice said that the court would get an answer from Imran Khan on this point. He asked did not hear a public interest litigation simply on the ground that the petitioner’s conduct was not proper.
He said that every leader took recourse to the constitution to justify his actions. Boycotting Parliament was a political strategy of PTI and it was not necessary to have any legal justification for the political strategy as sometimes the legal strategy seemed politically foolish, he added.
He said that parliamentary proceedings were boycotted worldwide and boycott had a long history in the subcontinent.
Justice Ijaz asked how many members approved the NAB amendments in the joint session of the Parliament?
Makhdoom Ali Khan responded that 166 members participated in the joint session at the time of passing the Bill.
Justice Ijaz said that the number of members was 446 in a joint session, which meant less than half of the people voted. The court was only examining fundamental rights and points of crossing constitutional limits, he added.
He said that the petitioner challenged the NAB amendments for violation of public interest and fundamental rights. He said the question of Imran Khan’s conduct would have arisen if there was any personal benefit to him from the NAB amendments. Apparently, the petitioner did not seem to have any personal interest attached to the NAB amendments, he added.
Makhdoom Ali Khan said that self-interested amendments were not necessarily challenging. The petitioner could also gain political advantage by challenging the NAB amendments, he added.
He said that PTI approached the court after the resignations were not accepted. Even after the resignation was accepted, PTI came to the court, he added. He said that Imran Khan deliberately decided to resign from the Parliament.
Upon this, the Chief Justice said that perhaps Imran Khan knew that he could not succeed in the Parliament, so he came to the court. Imran Khan was a politician as well as a common citizen, he added.
Makhdoom Ali Khan said that any trial was based on facts and not speculation. Instead of upholding or invalidating the legislation, the court could also return it without a decision, he added.
Justice Mansoor asked if the court declared the NAB law null and void, would anyone challenge the legislation in the Supreme Court? One person had challenged the NAB amendments, it was possible that the rest of the members of the same party were in favor of the amendments, he added.
Subsequently, the hearing of the case was adjourned till 14th February, 2023.