ISLAMABAD (Dunya News) – A petition filed with the Supreme Court of Pakistan (SCP) on Monday challenged the National Accountability (Amendment) Ordinance, 2019 promulgated by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government through a presidential ordinance on Friday that made momentous alterations to the accountability law known as the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999.
The petition, filed by Farogh Nawaz Bhatti, contended that the amendment was contradictory to several fundamental rights, and was against the rule of the Law, and the exploitation of the general public.
It further mentioned that the amendment is an attempt to create division in the society. The federal government, Prime Minister Imran Khan, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), the Federal Bureau of Revenue (FBR) and the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) have been made respondents in the petition.
The application pleaded with the apex court to immediately order cancellation of the National Accountability (Amendment) Ordinance, 2019, while claiming that the amendment was against Article 25 of the Constitution, and an attempt to protect the corruption of ministers and government officials as the government has been facing severe prohibitions from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
It has requested the top court to order the NAB submission of statistics of businessmen and claimed that tax authorities and businessmen have been involved in corrupt practices.
According to the amendment, the NAB can now only take up cases involving corruption or corrupt practices exceeding an amount of Rs500 million, and no action will be launched against government employees in case of departmental deficiencies.
“Notwithstanding anything contained in this ordinance or any other law for the time being in force, no inquiry, investigation, arrest or proceedings against a government servant, under this ordinance, either as an accused or witness, shall be initiated or conducted by NAB without prior approval of the scrutiny committee,” said a new clause inserted in Section 33-F of the ordinance.
Another amendment barred the accountability watchdog from confiscating property of any public office holder without prior approval of the scrutiny committee.
According to an amendment, “Inquiries and investigations shall stand transferred to the respective authorities or departments which administer the relevant laws of taxation, levies and imposts in question.
“Trials shall stand transferred from the relevant accountability courts to the criminal courts which deal with offences under the respective laws pertaining to taxation, levies and imposts in question.”
Furthermore, another amendment required the NAB chairman to devise a “complaint redressal mechanism for attending complaints against NAB” and present a quarterly report on its performance to the federal government.
In a summary sent by the law ministry to the federal cabinet, the government claimed that the NAB was dealing a large number of inquiries and investigation including handling of mega corruption cases.
“Under the existing regime a number of inquiries have been initiated against the holders of public office and government servants on account of procedural lapses where no actual corruption is involved. This has enhanced NAB’s burden and has also affected working of the federal government.”
It further pointed that the NAB had assumed parallel jurisdiction and was inquiring into matters pertaining to taxation, imposition of levies and interference in the domain of taxation regulatory bodies.
“It is therefore felt necessary to define through the subject amendments the operational domain of NAB,” it added.
The anti-graft agency’s jurisdiction over matters relating to tax, stock exchange and IPOs has been curtailed. The FBR, the SECP and building control authorities will be the sole authorities tasked to act on all such matters.