ISLAMABAD: Criticising the alleged misuse of the voluntary return (VR) law, the Supreme Court said on Monday that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has become a facilitator of those involved in corruption.
A two-judge bench of the top court comprising Justice Amir Hani Muslim and Justice Azmat Saeed made the observation while hearing a suo motu case against the alleged misuse of the VR law.
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The bench voiced anger over the misuse of Section 25(a) of the National Accountability Ordinance 1999, saying that the bureau has become a facilitator of those involved in corrupt practices.
During the proceedings, Justice Azmat asked if NAB has become a department of ‘only recoveries’? Entering into a VR agreement is like confession of one’s crime, he said, adding that the apex court had stated a year ago that the VR was wrong.
Justice Azmat wondered that “a person who defrauds Rs250 is sent to jail under the anti corruption law, but if a person embezzles Rs250 million can go scot-free after entering into a VR agreement!”
The bench asked Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) Ashtar Ausaf about the government’s take on the VR law. The AGP said the matter was already in the upper house of parliament.
Let the Senate and National Assembly do their job, only tell the court what is the government’s stance on the VR and plea bargain, Justice Hani asked the AGP, who sought a week’s time to get back to the bench.
Justice Hani said people have reservations about the plea bargain provision in the NAB law. “In some cases voluntary return is worse than plea bargaining,” he said, adding that after returning the embezzled money the accused could go scot-free. He quizzed the AGP if the NAB, FIA and anti-corruption laws were the same or not?
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Justice Azmat said the purpose of VR law was different, but NAB was writing letters to the accused asking them to enter into VR agreements. NAB should advertise in newspapers that so and so accused has entered into VR, he added sarcastically.
Opposing the VR law, Justice Hani remarked that the executive could not use the powers of the court.
NAB’s Prosecutor General Waqas Qadeer Dar said the government had written a letter to NAB for taking action against defaulters of electricity bill. “NAB has not enacted the VR law and the bureau is using this provision in accordance with the National Accountability Ordinance 1999,” he added.
He argued that when NAB officials had arrested a top bureaucrat in Balochistan Finance Secretary Mushtaq Raisani the media created uproar and reported that Rs40 billion in cash had been recovered from his residence. “The total budget of Balochistan is not Rs40 billion,” he said.
Dar further told the bench that in many cases NAB entered into voluntary return on the court orders.
The case was later adjourned for two weeks.
Courtesy : Express Tribune