Army officers, judges ‘fully liable’ under accountability laws, says top court

Imran Khan, the chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, appealed against changes made to the laws of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB)

According to a prominent Pakistani judge, judges in constitutional courts and members of the nation’s potent armed forces are “fully liable” under accountability laws, just like any other public servant.

In a dissenting note to the Supreme Court’s September 15 verdict, which overturned changes to the accountability laws and ordered the reinstatement of graft cases against public office holders, Supreme Court judge Mansoor Ali Shah made this observation, according to the Dawn newspaper.

A majority of 2-1 decided that certain amendments made to the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO), 1999 during the previous government led by the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) were invalidated by the bench of the Supreme Court, which was presided over by then Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial and included Justices Shah and Ijaz Ul Ahsan.

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Imran Khan, the chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, appealed against changes made to the laws of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), and his plea was heard.

While Justice Shah disagreed with the majority decision and said that inquiries and investigations should be reinstated in addition to the corruption cases, Justice Bandial and Justice Ahsan had ruled that Imran Khan’s plea was maintainable.

Khan’s petition was deemed “meritless” by Justice Shah in the comprehensive note released on Monday.

“Utterly failing to establish beyond any reasonable doubt that the challenged amendments in the NAB Ordinance are constitutionally invalid on the touchstone of ‘taking away’ or ‘abridging’ any of the fundamental rights,” he said of the petitioner’s attorney.

The issue of holding military personnel accountable was one that Justice Shah addressed during the case’s several hearings. He stated that there needs to be more clarity on the “generally professed opinion that members of the armed forces and the judges of the constitutional courts are not triable under the anti-corruption criminal laws of the land.”

He emphasised that if this understanding were to occur, “the judges of the constitutional courts and the members of the armed forces would become untouchable and above the law.”

The judge continued, saying that doing so would be “reprehensible and revolting to the conscience of the people of Pakistan and bring the court into serious disrepute.”

He declared, “We must, therefore, strongly reject the above widely held opinion and make it clear that, in accordance with the NAB Ordinance, judges of the constitutional courts and members of the armed forces bear full liability, just like any other public servant of Pakistan.”

About half of Pakistan’s history has been directly ruled by the strong military, and the other half has seen it maintain control over the nation’s affairs.

(With agency inputs)