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SHC issues split order on Dr Asim’s bail pleas

KARACHI: Dr Asim Hussain, Pakistan Peoples Party’s Karachi chapter president and a close aide of former president Asif Ali Zardari, may have to wait for some more time to be released on bail, as his bail pleas were referred to a referee judge for disposal after the two-member bench of the Sindh High Court could not reach a consenting order.

A two-judge bench, comprising Justice Mohammad Farooq Shah and Mohammad Karim Khan Agha, had earlier reserved its verdict on the bail applications of Dr Asim in two cases. The cases pertained to depriving the public exchequer of Rs462 million by misusing his authority to get land allotted illegally, encroaching upon state land for expansion of Dr Ziauddin Hospital, money laundering and receiving kickbacks.

The former federal minister, who has been behind bars since Aug 8, 2015, had filed the applications through his counsel seeking bail in the cases. The division bench, which had earlier reserved its verdict on the bail applications, issued a split order, differing from each other in their decisions.

Justice Farooq Shah granted bail to Dr Asim in the sum of Rs2.5m in each case and PR bond of the like amount to the satisfaction of Nazir of the court. He directed the applicant to deposit his original passport with the Nazir and directed the ministry of interior not to issue fresh passport to him until further orders of this court and to place his name on the Exit Control List (ECL).

Justice Shah observed that the ailment, which the petitioner had been suffering from, was such that it could not be properly treated on the jail premises and some specialised treatment was needed. Dr Asim’s continued detention in jail was hazardous to his life, he noted.

He went on to observe: “The right to life in particular has been expanded in recent times by the courts to adapt to the changing needs of society.”

Citing one of the present cases against Dr Asim in which even the charge was not yet framed, he said the NAB cases in which multiple accused were involved usually took exceedingly long time to be decided.

Justice Shah said that allowing someone to remain confined for long years despite the fact that confinement was hazardous to his life as proper and adequate treatment was not available in jail lead him to being permanently physically or mentally impaired. “Moreover, if he is exonerated of the charge after the years of confinement he is released after undergoing punishment,” he observed.

On the other hand, Justice Agha rejected the bail applications, observing that the prosecution indeed had succeeded in establishing a case of dismissal of the bail under the relevant provision of National Accountability Ordinance 1999 and within the ambit of Section 497(i) of the criminal procedure code. “The applicant being a senior doctor has been provided excellent treatment and hospitalisation on the recommendation of a medical board,” he added.

The judge noted: “Perusal of the record revealed that the offence committed by the accused person was a crime against the society as a whole in connection with the public offices and he is not involved in an ordinary criminal matter and his case was the exception as prima facie there is material on record to connect him with the commission of offences.”

Justice Agha observed that the prosecution pointed out that Dr Asim was receiving proper treatment from reputed senior doctors in renowned hospitals of the country. He added, “There is no compelling reason for me to enlarge bail on the applicant at this stage when he is facing serious charges.”

The judge ruled that this case didn’t fall within the ambit of the provision of Section 497 of the CrPC. “Consequently bail is declined,” he said.

Justice Agha remarked that the trial court was expected to expedite the trial and decide the references at the earliest, preferably, within four months by recording the depositions of all material witnesses on a day-to-day basis under intimation to this court.

Earlier, Dr Asim’s lawyer had contended that the ailing PPP leader had already been granted bail in another case on medical grounds. He had been behind bars for the past one and a half years and was seriously ill. He was shifted to the intensive care unit of the National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases due to a sudden heart ailment.

The counsel said that according to the medical board, which had been constituted to examine the health of his client, the PPP leader had lower backache and needed to undergo disc surgery.

He asked the court to grant bail to his client so that he could get proper medical treatment.

The National Accountability Bureau’s prosecutor, however, opposed the bail plea and submitted that Dr Asim was being provided suitable medical treatment. The PPP leader was facing grave charges and thus, he was not entitled to such relief, he argued.

The co-accused in the case included former petroleum secretary Mohammad Ejaz Chaudhry, administrator of Ziauddin Medical Centre, Dubai, Abdul Hameed, former directors of the Karachi Development Authority Syed Athar Hussain and Masood Haider and Karachi Dock Labour Board’s former chief executive officer Safdar Hussain.

The other corruption reference against Dr Asim pertained to illegal award of multibillion rupee gas processing contracts to Jamshoro Joint Venture Limited (JJVL) and thus embezzling Rs17 billion. It was alleged in the reference that the accused allowed the JJVL to process gas at different gas fields without conducting an open auction, signing agreements and memorandums of understanding as required by law, thus causing a loss of Rs17.4bn to the national exchequer. The co-accused in this reference included SSGC managing director Khalid Rehman and former officials Zuhair Siddiqui, Azeem Iqbal, Shoaib Warsi, Yusuf Jamil Ansari and Malik Usman, former managing director of OGDCL Basharat Mirza and official, Zahid Bakhtiar and JJVL chief executive officer Iqbal Ahmed.

courtesy : dawn news

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