The Supreme Court on Monday rejected an application of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) against the Islamabad High Court’s (IHC) Sept 10 decision to proceed with the petitions of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family members seeking the suspension of sentences awarded by an accountability court in the Avenfield reference.
In its application, NAB had pleaded the apex court to direct the high court to commence hearing of the Sharifs’ appeals against their conviction, instead of their petitions seeking suspension of sentences passed by the accountability court.
While rejecting NAB's request today, the SC imposed a fine of Rs20,000 on the bureau for filing a "frivolous" petition.
Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Saqib Nisar directed the NAB counsel to submit the fine in the dams fund initiated by the apex court.
"It is the high court's prerogative [to decide] whether it wants to hear the appeals against the conviction first or the petitions seeking suspension of the sentences," the top judge remarked.
The Supreme Court cannot interfere in this jurisdiction of the high court, he added.
On July 6, Judge Mohammad Bashir had announced a 10-year imprisonment for Sharif, seven for his daughter Maryam Nawaz and one year for son-in-law retired Capt Muhammad Safdar in the Avenfield reference.
The appeals filed by the Sharifs against their conviction are still pending in the high court. In the meanwhile, they filed a set of petitions in the IHC seeking suspension of sentences handed by the accountability court.
When the high court decided to hear the appeals against the conviction, the Sharifs moved applications for the early hearing of their petitions filed against the conviction. The high court accepted the applications and decided to commence hearing the petitions from Sept 11.
In its application, NAB chairman Javed Iqbal had argued that it was not just and reasonable for the high court to pass an order without issuing a notice to the state.
The high court could not review its own decision of hearing the appeals, the NAB application contended, adding that the high court was not righteous in passing an order in the connected matters to proceed with the cases pertaining to the suspension of the conviction.
The NAB application argued that the petitioners had not provided any cogent reasons for seeking the relief, besides the relief being sought was in contravention with the spirit of the provisions of Section 32 of the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO).
There is no justification for postponement of the main appeals against the conviction by taking up instead the applications for the suspension of the conviction when the appeals were already fixed for hearing on Sept 10, the NAB application said.
The proceedings in the appellate court could not be controlled by the whims of the convicts [Sharifs], the application said.
Therefore, the decision of the high court to proceed with the suspension of the conviction cases was liable to be set aside, the NAB application argued.